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Sunday, 13 September 2015

Recently Read: July & August

I started back to work full time in July and haven't had a huge amount of time for two of my favourite past times; reading and blogging but sure here we are now, combining the two! Hurrah!

The Flower Arrangement by Ella Griffin
I requested this on NetGalley because I'm extremely shallow and loved the cover. That aside, Ella Griffin is an Irish author and I liked the sound of a Dublin based florist, dealing with love and loss. I surprised myself with how much I loved this book; I quickly became engrossed in the various characters and their lives and experienced a full range of emotions while reading it. Lara is the protagonist and the owner of the flower shop, located on Camden Street. She's a natural at her job and helps others express themselves through perfectly picked blooms. She's an empathetic and kind person and is instantly likeable which makes it even harder when her life takes some difficult turns. I cried heavily at some of these parts, dealing with grief seems to be an ongoing thing and so it all came to the fore with this book (SPOILER but I should warn ye actually if you are currently grieving the loss of a loved one or have lost a baby, this may be one to avoid). Even though there are sad and emotional elements to this book, it's ultimately about love and is balanced well by how uplifting and positive it is. I LOVED the tour of Dublin this book takes you on- I have a serous grĂ¡ for this city and I really think Griffin did it justice here. I also have to applaud how well she used a significantly large cast of characters throughout the book- what could have been confusing was actually really well done. Even minor characters popping into the shop to buy flowers had interesting little back stories that sometimes connect up with other ones later on in the book. I thought that was unique and very clever and I would definitely recommend The Flower Arrangement. 

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan
I love the website Go Fug Yourself and although I hadn't read the previous YA books from the two women who run that site, I was drawn in by the premise of The Royal We, which is actually kind of Will and Kate fan fiction. I know, but bear with me. Go Fug Yourself is seriously witty and sarcastic and plays nicely to my sense of humour. While The Royal We has less of that and is really more of a standard chick lit, it's well written and entertaining. 
Lacey is an American student travelling to Oxford to attend University. Who should be staying in the same accommodation as her but Nicholas, future King of England. Unlike a lot of other girls in the nearby vicinity, she's not particularly starstruck and although they become pals, she actually starts going out with one of his friends. The book follows their eventual courtship through their university experiences to life after studying and back to the present day where Lacey is being blackmailed by a dodgy tabloid journalist with information that could tear them apart and leave her publicly disgraced. Although it clearly differs from the real life Will and Kate, it has plenty of similarities and is a somewhat cheeky look at royal life- the Queen is portrayed as being a lot more craic than you would've thought and there's a ginger rogue of a royal brother that seems a bit familiar too.. 
There are a few overly lengthy sections that I feel could've been shortened but overall, this is worth a read if you're on your holidays, travelling or in your sick bed and need something light and a bit cheesy.

Down The Rabbit Hole (Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny) by Holly Madison
Let me explain. I was reading Dark Places (more of that below) and needed something to counteract the bleakness of that and thought this might be the perfect antidote. If you watched The Girls Next Door back in the early 2000's then you'll know who Holly Madison is. She became famous alongside her fellow Playboy mansion occupants Kendra and Bridget for being Hugh Hefners girlfriends with all the apparent perks of living the playboy life. Her memoirs tell a very different story however. 
Holly was a small town girl that wanted to be an actress and so moved to L.A. She loved the glamorous look and paid for a boob job with credit cards which unsurprisingly left her in debt and with nowhere to live. Long story short, she moved into the Playboy mansion. As she tells it, all of the other girlfriends were "mean girls" and were pretty horrendous to her. She lists all of their wrongdoings and mentions all of her own angelic actions with repeated references to what an "intelligent girl" she is. The whole book is like this- Hugh Hefner gets a good slagging with mentions of his bladder control issues and episodes of illness as he gets older that I can only read as an attempt to embarrass him, while her other ex, Kris Angel gets trawled through the mud as well with a big emphasis on his lack of intelligence and anxiety. Overall, this is very much a "Golden Cleric" acceptance speech but in a book form. If you've never seen Father Ted, then apologies because that will mean nothing to you. I'll admit, some of it was certainly interesting, purely in a gossipy kind of way and the feminist in me was outraged more than once but generally I just found it incredibly petty. Plus there was a huge amount of repetition and unnecessary space filling. Give this one a miss.

In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
I had of course read Are You There God, It's Me, Margaret when I was younger and so was intrigued by this new Judy Blume book, aimed at adult readers. Although it's fiction, it's based on real life events in the 1950's when a succession of planes crashed into a small town in the USA over the space of a year. Around these terrifying events, we follow Miri Ammerman (a young teenager in love for the first time) and her family, neighbours, friends and a whole host of others as they deal with this crisis in their lives. Unlike The Flower Arrangement, I thought the introduction of this huge cast of characters was quite poorly done and I struggled to remember who was talking during each chapter and what relation they were to anyone else. It may not have helped that I listened to this on Audible but I've read others comments on Goodreads agreeing that this element of the book was quite confusing. I thought the conclusion was actually the best part of the book but that couldn't save it for me. Just not my cup of tea I guess!

Jaws by Peter Benchley
Jaws is one of my all time favourite films and so I felt it was abut time I read the book. You probably know the story by now but it's summertime in 1970's America and Amity is a small seaside town that struggles throughout the year due to a lack of tourism money in Winter. Summer then is when its residence make their income for the other nine months and any affect on that would be catastrophic. Step in (or swim in I guess) then a great white shark that preys on the small town, seemingly intent on killing as many people as possible. All of the same cast of characters from the film are present in the book; Chief Brody and his wife Ellen (although here their marriage is on the rocks), marine biologist Matt Hooper and Quint, the professional shark hunter. Although in the novel they all have very different relationships to one another and at times startlingly different characteristics. Not sure I would've had a thing for Richard Dreyfuss if he had played it like this. Anyways, it is at times scene-for-scene with the book and well written in the sense that it provides a fair few tense moments but honestly, the film is SO good that there's probably no need for you to ever pick up the novel too.

Furiously Happy (A Funny Book About Horrible Things) by Jenny Lawson
Furiously Happy is Jenny Lawson's second book (read my review of her first HERE) and features more ridiculous and yet hilarious stories from her life. I did once again find myself actually guffawing and then reading particular sections out loud to my husband. This woman is just so very funny. A very unique and at times bizarre humour that if you get it, it's just the best thing ever. If you don't, you might be a bit puzzled.
Unlike Let's Pretend this never Happened, there was a much stronger focus on mental health issues and Lawson's own experiences of struggling and coping with depression and anxiety. The book teaches some pretty valuable lessons on how to talk to loved ones who live with these sorts of conditions, in an engaging and honest way and she also provides some heartfelt advice for those currently coping with their own mental health problems. Basically; you're not alone. She goes into much more detail than that and I found myself welling up once or twice at how emotive this was. If you liked her first book you may be slightly disappointed at how different Furiously Happy is. That said, I would still recommend you read it; it covers topics that are important and relevant to us all and does so with humour and kindness.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
This is the third Gillian Flynn novel I've read, the other two being Gone Girl and Sharp Objects and like those, this is a twisted and grim story with strong female characters that are not wholly likeable. I don't know where Flynn's mind goes to when she writes but I'm slightly in awe of her and her abilities. Libby Day is our narrator and the sole survivor of a bloody massacre that took the lives of her mother and two young sisters when Libby was only seven years old. It's 25 years later and her brother, Ben is in prison serving a life sentence for the crimes, which he was convicted of after Libby, the only witness, accused him of being the murderer.
Libby is unsurprisingly a pretty messed up adult and finds herself with no money, no practical skills and no real inclination to earn an honest living so agrees to meet with a group of amateur crime sleuths in exchange for money. Stunned at how vehemently they believe in her brother's innocence, she agrees to investigate and interview people from her past to prove she was right but the further she digs the more potential suspects come to light. This book is so skilfully written that I never at any stage guessed who the killer could be and so I was taken aback by the conclusion. I actually had nightmares after finishing it, such was the effect of the flashbacks to the episodes of violence. In spite of that, this was just a superb thriller/horror and one I would definitely recommend, particularly if you like to read the book before the film- it's coming to the big screen starring Charlize Theron soon! Woop!

Peyton Place by Grace Metalious
Oh Lord, it took me ages to get through his one. Peyton Place was written in 1956 and was an immediate bestseller that was later turned into a TV series and a film. It focuses on the lives of three women; Constance MacKenzie, a repressed 30 something year old, her illegitimate daughter Allison and her friend Selena Cross who works in Constance's store but is very much from the wrong side of the tracks. Peyton Place is a small New England town and is home to plenty of dirty little secrets, including incest, abortion, adultery and murder.
The book follows their personal journeys in navigating their own issues, in particular Alison and Selena who mature from being daydreaming teenagers to hardened women. At times this was entertaining and had that small-town-humour quality that Stephen King also captures very well but ultimately the ending felt rushed and there wasn't enough time dedicated to Selena- a far more interesting character than Alison, in my opinion.

And that's the lot for the time being. Have you read any of these?
Reading anything interesting at the moment?


  1. Ooh I'm looking forward to reading Furiously Happy seeing your review above! It's on my list to read very soon

    1. Yay! Yeah I enjoyed it. She's just so funny but also has so much to say. Love her!

  2. I've never seen Jaws. I know.... I'm intrigued by Peyton Place, and Dark Places has been on my kindle forever. I just finished "The Well" by Catherine Chanter, it started off great but just really dragged in the middle.

    1. Sharon, no!! You must rectify that!! Definitely give Dark Places a look but be prepared for the horrors :(