12
May 15

The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent

Book: The Reader on the 6.27
Author: Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Available: 4th June 2015
Summary: Guylain Vignolles lives on the edge of existence. Working at a book pulping factory in a job he hates, he has but one pleasure in life . . . Sitting on the 6.27 train each day, Guylain recites aloud from pages he has saved from the jaws of his monstrous pulping machine. And it’s this release of words into the world that starts our hero on a journey that will finally bring meaning into his life. One morning, Guylain discovers the diary of a lonely young woman: Julie. A woman who feels as lost in the world as he does. As he reads from these pages to a rapt audience, Guylain finds himself falling hopelessly in love with their enchanting author . . .

 

reader

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all having good weeks and finding the time to read! This week I devoured Jean-Paul Didierlaurent’s The Reader on the 6.27 - I read it in one sitting, I couldn’t put it down! It is one of those feel-good books that gets you really invested in the character’s story, and then puts you in a good mood when you finish it. There is an underlying element of it being a love story, but the novel is so much more than that. Literature, friendship, the act of reading and how we interact with those around us – those are all big themes in the book.

The scenes where Guylain heads to his job at the book-pulping factory are heartbreaking, and not just because I hate the idea of books being destroyed en masse (There was a definite element of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in those scenes). There’s the evil colleague who takes pleasure in destruction, another colleague who loses his legs in a tragic accident (I promise that’s not a huge spoiler) but refuses to give up on being positive, and then there’s the way Guylain tries to save as many pages as he can as he comes to terms with the guilt of destroying the very things he loves.

What I do love about this novel is that, aside from the book-destroying job, this is a very sweet book. It’s sweet because Guylain is trying to save books in his own unique way. It’s sweet because there are some heartwarming secondary characters you can’t help but get attached to, such as the pair of old ladies who convince Guylain to come and read to them. It’s sweet because Guylain himself is the kind of character you would expect Hugh Grant to play if this was a romantic comedy. But most of all, it’s sweet because it’s a love story without the usual drama of a romance. Guylain finds a USB with Julie’s diary in it, and while I initially didn’t like the fact that he essentially delved into her most private thoughts, because his intentions are made so well-meaning as he increasingly identifies with her, I found myself really rooting for him in his quest to track her down.

Overall this is a very interesting read, especially if you’re interested in the power of literature and how books influence our lives.

Definitely mark the 4th June in your diaries – this is going to be a great summer read! Do you already have some books lined up for the summer that you think I should review? Tweet me at @Julie_Delahaye and let me know!

Julie x


07
May 15

A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher

Book: A Little in Love
Author: Susan E. Fletcher
Publisher: Chicken House
Available: Out now
Summary: Paris, 1832 – a street girl lies alone, dying in the darkness, clutching a letter to her heart. Eponine remembers being a child: her swing and peach tree, and the baby brother she loved. But mostly she remembers being miserable. Taught to lie and cheat, and to hate the one girl, Cosette, who might have been her friend. Now grown up at sixteen, the two girls meet again and Eponine has one more chance. But what is the price of friendship? Love?

alittleinlove

Hi everyone,

I was a bit hesitant when Susan Fletcher’s novel landed on my desk – I am a mega fan of Les Miserables (Book, film, musical), so I was a bit worried that this might ruin a story I have always adored. I was wrong. I think if Victor Hugo read Susan’s novel he would be happy with how she has created this little world, all for Eponine. I love that it touches on the major plot points from the original story, but that she develops her own timeline, her own take on what happens to Eponine in those scenes we never see in the book. Quick word of warning – if you haven’t read/seen Les Miserables, first of all do, and then read this book, otherwise I don’t think it will resonate quite as well.

Eponine is a tough character to tackle – she lives a life full of misery, resentment and anger, and yet there’s still a little light that shines as she refuses to give up on love, despite having been shown none at all. There is an intense build-up of her belief in love before she meets Marius, making it all the more heart-breaking when she realises he (SPOILER) doesn’t love her back. There’s the particularly shattering scene when she sees him, realises he loves Cosette and that Cosette loves him back, and breaks down. Yet her biggest redeeming factor is her determination to make things right, to give them their own little happiness even if it means sacrificing her own.

My favourite part of Susan’s writing is how she creates an Eponine that all fans of the original story will recognise, but she makes her her own. She takes the Thenardiers and turns them into particularly evil characters (They’re despicable but also slightly comical in other versions), she shows us Jean Valjean through Eponine’s eyes, and yet you feel like you’re discovering a totally new story. Although I will admit I definitely had to listen to the soundtrack after I finished the book.

Definitely a must-read for fans of Les Miserables, and also for those who want to read a a tragic but touching story.

What have you all been reading this week? Let me know – tweet me at @Julie_Delahaye !

Julie x

 


29
Apr 15

The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George

Book: The Little Paris Bookshop
Author: Nina George
Publisher: Abacus
Available: Out now
Summary: On a beautifully restored barge on the Seine, Jean Perdu runs a bookshop; or rather a ‘literary apothecary’, for this bookseller possesses a rare gift for sensing which books will soothe the troubled souls of his customers. The only person he is unable to cure, it seems, is himself. He has nursed a broken heart ever since the night, twenty-one years ago, when the love of his life fled Paris, leaving behind a handwritten letter that he has never dared read. The arrival of an enigmatic new neighbour in his eccentric apartment building inspires Jean to unmoor the floating bookshop and set off for Provence, in search of the past.

ninageorge

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all having book-filled weeks – this week I’ve been reading Nina George’s The Little Paris Bookshop, which is the ultimate Bank Holiday read if you were looking for a new book.

There are two things in the world that are always guaranteed to cheer me up: Paris, and a really good book. So you can imagine when Nina George’s novel landed on my desk, I immediately knew it would be right up my street. And it was, but it was so much more than I expected! I’ll be honest, I thought it would be a slightly cheesy but lovely romance novel, so I was completely caught unawares when it turned out to be a deeply moving novel that has you wanting to do a bit of soul-searching yourself. Jean Perdu is actually a bookseller who struggles to come to terms with his past, while helping others people heal their wounds with books.

I actually own a book called ‘The Novel Cure’ and it seems like Jean could have written it himself – it lists all different books and when the best time to read them is, i.e a particularly great novel for heartbreak, or if you’re bored or having an existential crisis.. Anyway, this novel had a lot more depth to it than I thought. It’s almost impossible not to get attached to Jean – even when he’s being stubborn or frustrating he eventually comes around and you feel like you’re going on this emotional and physical journey with him.

I thought Nina captured the essence of Paris but also Provence perfectly. There’s a lovely mix between the charm of the city and the charm of the countryside and it almost made want to get on a barge and go on an adventure (but then I remembered when I went on a canal boat once and got major cabin fever so I stayed put on the sofa under my blanket!). Jean is joined on his journey by Max, an author struggling to decide what his next novel will be after writing a bestseller.What I really like is that every character has a moving story – for example, Max has a complicated relationship with his Dad, Jean is trying to work through grief and heartbreak, and then they’re joined by various eccentric characters from a flamboyant singer to a passionate Italian chef, who all work through their issues.

In terms of literature, there are so many books mentioned throughout the story,  both real novels and made-up ones, for a bookworm like me it was an absolute dream and basically made for an extra reading list.

I would definitely recommend this to any book nerd out there, or anyone who would describe themselves as a bit of a dreamer. It’s brilliant!

What are you all reading?

Julie xx

 


07
Apr 15

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance by Kirsty Greenwood

Book: The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance
Author: Kirsty Greenwood
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Available: Thursday 9th April
Summary: Jessica Beam is a girl who knows how to party. Only lately she’s been forgetting to turn up for work on time. Or in clean clothes. Down on her luck, out of a job and homeless, Jess seeks the help of her long-lost grandmother. Things aren’t going well for Matilda Beam, either. Her 1950s Good Woman guide books are out of print and her mortgage repayments are staggering. When a lifeline from a London publisher arrives, the pair have an opportunity to secure the roof over their heads – by invigorating the Good Woman guides and transforming modern, rebellious Jess into a demure vintage lady.

kirsty

I’m a big fan of Kirsty Greenwood and her website Novelicious, so when she revealed she had written a book I couldn’t wait to read it. I was not disappointed.

The Vintage Guide to Love and Romance is the ultimate chick lit book – there’s romance, humour, great characters and plot twists. I couldn’t put it down, and pretty much read it in one sitting!

The novel follows protagonist Jessica Beam, who is fabulous. She’s a bit of a liability but she has a good heart, she’s outspoken, she’s funny.. Jessica is also pretty inspirational, because she’s unapologetic about her life choices, it’s pretty refreshing for a protagonist not to be making excuses for their behaviour.

To be honest, there wasn’t one character in the story I didn’t like. Even the ‘baddie’ Summer is fabulous with her glamorous life and absolute disregard for anyone that she deems unhelpful to her career.

There’s also Jessica’s old-fashioned yet adorable Grandma, the slightly desperate but funny Peaches, and the very forgiving Jamie (you will know why that is my description of him when you read the book!). Then of course, there’s Leo, the dashing love interest, the ‘eternal bachelor’ who Jessica strives to win over.

This is a light-hearted book, but there are some deeper themes that I really admired Kirsty for touching upon, particularly Jessica’s struggle as she comes to terms with the loss of her mother.

All in all, this book was fabulous. A great read for a holiday or a lazy afternoon. Be warned though – it will make you want to hit the shops and deck yourself out in full vintage outfits.

Hope you all had lovely Easters, let me know what you have been reading!

Julie xxx


08
Mar 15

Bad Bridesmaid by Portia MacIntosh

Book: Bad Bridesmaid
Author: Portia MacIntosh
Publisher: Carina
Available: Out now
Summary: LA romcom writer Mia Valentina has it all: money, success and a tanned and toned body. She’s almost forgotten her previous life as plain old Mia Harrison until she receives a wedding invitation demanding her presence as chief bridesmaid for younger sister Belle’s upcoming nuptials. Mia’s barely back in England before she’s accidentally injured the groom, unintentionally ‘cursed’ the wedding and been caught in a compromising position with her sister’s soon to be brother-in-law. With the wedding dangerously going off the rails, Mia has no time to waste, and gorgeous fireman and best man Leo is on hand to help – will she use her expert romance knowledge to save the day or just walk away?

badbridesmaid

With the days slowly starting to get longer and Spring almost upon us, I’ve started thinking about the holidays and getting excited for when it will start to get warmer – so naturally I’ve also turned my attention to books that would be great to read on holiday. Portia MacIntosh’s novel Bad Bridesmaid is the perfect example. It has a bit of everything that you want for a beach read – romance, drama, quirky characters, plus it’s really funny.

The protagonist Mia is a very insecure Plain-Jane-turned-LA-script-writer, and her bad luck throughout the book is almost unbelievable – whatever she does, you can bet it gets her into trouble. I do think she can be a bit selfish at times, but she’s not a malicious person so she’s still a likeable character. I think she’s very hard on herself and it can be quite tricky not to get a bit frustrated at her for not properly sticking up for herself and telling her family the truth about how they make her feel.

Which brings me to Mia’s family. What an incredibly frustrating bunch of characters – they overreact, they’re cold, they’re harsh and unfriendly. Just reading the book made me feel a bit anxious at times on Mia’s behalf. Belle, Mia’s sister and the bride, is quite possibly one of the most annoying characters I have ever encountered in a book – she’s a little bit ridiculous with her superstitions, so unfriendly and just a general Bridezilla. There are only a few moments where she actually comes through for Mia but generally she’s crazily self-obsessed – making her actually quite an interesting character because you always wonder what her next major freak out will be.

Meanwhile, from her creepy uncle to her verbally abusive aunt, Mia has to navigate through her family’s inability to be kind towards her, making it increasingly difficult to understand why she doesn’t just leave. Then, we meet love interest Leo, a handsome fireman who’s kind and quite funny, and suddenly all is clear. If you’re going to have a crush on a literary character, make it Leo – but you’ll have to read the book to see what I mean!

Basically, a must-read for anyone who is going to a wedding/having a wedding, or if you want something easy and fun to read during a beach holiday!

What are you all reading this week?

Julie x

 

 


05
Mar 15

The Tutor by Andrea Chapin

Book: The Tutor
Author: Andrea Chapin
Publisher: Penguin
Available: 26th March
Summary: When the body of a Catholic priest is found by Katherine, a young widow staying with relatives in Lufanwal, life for the family begins to unravel. The head of the family flees England and, in his absence, resentment and ambition thrive. Into the midst of this upheaval comes a young tutor, quick-witted and unorthodox: William Shakespeare. Katherine is drawn helplessly into Will’s world of poetry and imagination, the intensity of her love distracting her from disasters looming all around. But malicious forces can’t be ignored for long, and conspiracies threaten to overwhelm the natural order – and charming Will Shakespeare is not what he seems. 

tutor

Whenever I’ve studied Shakespeare, one of the things that has always fascinated me, apart from his writing obviously, is how little we actually know about the playwright. I am a big fan of historical fiction surrounding his life and what might have inspired him to write. Therefore, Andrea Chapin’s The Tutor was right up my street. It’s got politics, religion, romance and literature, so whatever your favourite genre is, chances are this book will appeal.

The protagonist, Katherine, meets Will Shakespeare during a turbulent time in her life (I won’t give too much away), and begins to edit his writing for him. Katherine is a great character – she’s level-headed but passionate, kind but not a pushover. There’s a vulnerability about her but she’s still a strong character – widowed after a tragic fire, she throws herself into books and her family, and I like that she isn’t portrayed as someone to feel sorry for – even the times where we do pity her, you still get the sense that she will bounce back.

Then there’s Will Shakespeare. I think he can be a tricky character because of how renowned he is, but Andrea does a great job. I love that she doesn’t create a flawless genius – Will is rude, insolent, but also really funny and mysterious. It’s easy to forget that he was a real person, I think Andrea does a great job of setting him up as simply another character in her book, a love interest for Katherine – she doesn’t draw too much on what we think we know about him, she brings him to life on the page in her own way. Without giving too much away, at times he is cruel and Andrea writes in a way that you find yourself resenting him for how he treats Katherine. There’s so much speculation out there about who/what inspired Shakespeare, and I like how we get a glimpse into the character’s thought process, but from Katherine’s point of view to keep him slightly mysterious.

Andrea’s writing is brilliant – there’s a lot of detail but you don’t feel like she has picked up a history book and stuck to everything. When I read historical fiction I want to be transported to another world, not feel like I’m studying non-fiction, and in Andrea’s case it’s definitely the former.

The chapters are quite short so this is an ideal book for a commuter, but to be honest I think it will appeal the most to anyone who loves and has studied Shakespeare.

What are you all reading this week? x

 


20
Jan 15

The Hourglass Factory by Lucy Ribchester

Book: The Hourglass Factory
Author: Lucy Ribchester
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Available: Out now
Summary: Ebony Diamond is a trapeze artist, tiger-tamer, suffragette – wherever there’s trouble she’s never far away. When Ebony suddenly goes missing, her disappearance leads tomboy journalist Frankie from the newsrooms of Fleet Street to the headquarters of the suffragettes on the trail of a murderous villain with a plot more deadly than anyone could have imagined… 

hourglass

Hi everyone,

Hope you all survived Blue Monday and are ready to face the rest of the week! Over the last few days I’ve been reading Lucy Ribchester’s gripping debut novel, The Hourglass Factory.

It’s got everything I love in a good thriller – unexpected plot twists, glamorous underworlds, politics, good vs bad policemen. But it also has the setting of the suffragettes, fighting for women’s rights, and Lucy does a fantastic job of setting the scene of London in the 1910s. Paying great attention to detail and also featuring events that really happened (not the murder mystery part, I mean in the background), Lucy has created a really mesmerising piece of historical fiction.

There are some parts of the book I felt could have been edited down – there’s a lot of description about the background of some of the characters that seems a bit unnecessary, but it doesn’t happen enough to detract from the plot, which was good!

The protagonist, Frankie, was not my favourite character – I found her really frustrating, because she doesn’t seem to support women’s rights, yet they are the reason she can work as a reporter in the first place. I felt like sometimes she was just being a bit of a whiner, but I like how she does slowly come around (although I still feel that I never quite connected with her). The most interesting character in my opinion, apart from Ebony Diamond (I mean she’s a trapeze artist and tiger tamer, how could she not be interesting), is Milly, Ebony’s friend and Frankie’s ally.

Milly is a bit of everything – brave, cowardly, funny, serious, and mysterious. I felt like she was the most relatable female character in the book, not to mention her back story is awesome.

Definitely worth a read for anyone interested in the suffragettes – like I said, Lucy goes into a lot of detail drawing on real-life events, so it’s a great insight into the world of suffragettes and women’s rights, even alongside it being a piece of fiction.

I would recommend reading this if you love history and thrillers – it’s the perfect combination of both!

What have you all been reading?

Julie x


19
Nov 14

The Life and Dreams of Pimientos de Padrón by Katherine Anne Lee

Book: The Life and Dreams of Pimientos de Padrón
Author: Katherine Anne Lee
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Summary: This is the story of Pimientos de Padrón. Let yourself be swept away to a faraway place where everything is possible. Dreams can be dreamt and fairy tales come true. Meet the six unique peppers. Accompany their journey from the valley of hopes and dreams to a vibrant city, which opens the door to the world for them.

lifeanddreams

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re having good weeks and getting excited in the run up to Christmas! These last two days I’ve been completely engrossed in Katherine Anne Lee’s second novel, The Life and Dreams of Pimientos de Padrón.

If I was to describe this book in one word? Calm. I read it during my commute and I found myself completely relaxed for a change as people pushed me around and stole seats!

The story follows six peppers as they grow on the plants and their journey as they’re picked, sold and eaten. It’s a really sweet story, although be warned – it’s a nightmare to read when you’re hungry!

The plot also raises a lot of questions about the spiritual side of life, and there’s a lot about finding your own path, as well as questions about soul, but to be perfectly honest, I was more drawn to the actual story of the peppers.

Katherine feeds you extraordinary amounts of detail without saying very much at all. For example, there’s a passage where the peppers are still growing, and panic as a storm hits. I loved how Katherine explains the dangers of bad weather for the condition of the peppers through their perspective. Humans barely feature in the story, only where really necessary – it keeps all the focus on the peppers, and I think helps to keep the sense of calm throughout the story.

Each pepper is unique, in personality, shape and size – Flavio is a wannabe mafia boss, Kim is a superficial and cares about her appearance, Winston is an investigator, Marple is the voice of reason, Clark is in awe of nature, and Apollo is very innocent and childlike.

I have to say I was drawn most to Apollo, I think you’re kind of supposed to be, but I also really liked Marple and Kim. Kim might be superficial but she’s hilarious, while Maple is interesting as you never really get a proper glimpse into her ambitions, although you do with the others.

I’ll definitely be heading to Borough Market to pick up some peppers to try!

What have you all been reading this week?

Julie x


08
Nov 14

Returning to blogging with Lena Dunham’s ‘Not That Kind of Girl’

Book: Not That Kind of Girl: A young woman tells you what she’s ‘learned’
Author: Lena Dunham
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this you might like: How to be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

 

lena (331x500)

Hi everyone!

It’s been literally months since my last post, and I apologise, but life suddenly got incredibly hectic and something had to give! However I’ve constantly been reading and waiting for when I could start reviewing again, and finally have found the time.

I’ve heard a lot about Lena Dunham’s new book ‘Not That Kind of Girl: A young woman tells you what she’s learned’, and while I’ve only ever seen one episode of her TV show girls, I was intrigued and decided to read it myself. Lena’s stories are so, so awkward, but hilarious. She’s very blunt and honest which I really loved, because I feel like sometimes in autobiographies, you get the author’s sugar-coated version of events.

Not with her. She’s brutally honest about everything from what she struggles with when it comes to dating, to her body image issues. Her way of writing is pretty inspiring – she has nothing to hide, and even recounts moments where she has acted in a way that doesn’t particularly endear you to her. That’s not to say I didn’t like her throughout the book. She has a refreshing style, and there was a particularly sweet passage where she speaks about why she loves her Dad. It’s a really personal touch but it sums up her book – it’s a real insight into the mind and life of someone who has shot to fame for her brave and bold approach to life.

Definitely worth a read if you’re a young woman in your twenties, but also I think if you’re looking for an autobiography with a difference.

Have you read it? Let me know what you think :)

Next post will be on its way soon!

Julie x x


26
Aug 14

An exciting author event…

Hi everyone,

Hope you had lovely bank holiday weekends despite the rain… although it did give me an excuse to curl up on the sofa with Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind and a cup of tea!

I love going to author events and meeting the people who have written some of my absolute favourite books, so I was excited that blinkbox Books are hosting a brilliant event in October with authors including Caitlin Moran, David Nicholls.. and then Clare Balding, Graham Norton and Paul Merton! I’ve been to a few of these types of events and I always think it’s such a good opportunity to pick authors’ brains, as well as meeting loads of people who have the same passion for reading as I do.

authorevent1

The event will be taking place on the 3rd and 4th of October at Cadogan Hall in London, and tickets are currently on sale. Clare Balding will be speaking with the authors, and the audience get to ask their own questions (I have SO many for Caitlin Moran, her book How to be a Woman  honestly changed my life).

There’s a bit of everything – the Hairy Bikers and Lorraine Pascale will be talking all things food and travel on the first day, followed by David Nicholls in the evening who will be talking about his hugely successful novels, including One Day (Which is actually one of my absolute favourite books, SO many questions for him!). Plus, Graham Norton has a new book out soon called  The Life and Loves of a He Devil – I absolutely love his show so I’m excited to see what stories he has to tell Clare!

authorevent2

On the second day, for those who like comedy there’ll be David Baker and Paul Merton, followed by Caitlin Moran and Kate Mosse in the evening. (Although Kate will be talking about her new book The Taxidermist’s Daughter which is a psychological thriller so that might not be so comedy-based).

I’ll definitely be getting a ticket – it’s very rare that events have SO many big names/so many people I’m a huge fan of, so if you hear someone piping up with an unlimited amount of questions in the audience, it will probably be me…

Anyways, let me know what you have all been reading!

Julie x

P.S If you want more information head to www.blinkboxbooks.com

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