April, 2014

Apr 14

Beautiful Day by Kate Anthony

Book: Beautiful Day
Author: Kate Anthony
Publisher: Penguin/Michael Joseph
Available: Out now in paperback and ebook format
If you enjoy this book you might like: One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – Ken Kesey (Although this is much more intense than Beautiful Day)
Summary: Rachel is looking for her beautiful day. She’s worried about everything: being a good mother, money and starting a new job. Philip is a lost soul in the world and he could do with a friend. They are just about to meet and when they do, everything will change. Rachel and Philip don’t know it yet, but they each have what the other needs. They can save one another, and not in the way you might expect.

Beautiful Day (326x500)

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all having lovely weeks and looking forward to the bank holiday weekend! This week I’ve been reading Kate Anthony’s debut novel, Beautiful Day. It’s a really touching story about motherhood, family love and generally being compassionate towards those around you.

I did enjoy the book, but because I am not a mother/have not gone through a divorce, it wasn’t always easy to fully connect with the protagonist Rachel. Saying that, Kate does provide her readers with an opportunity for empathy through Rachel’s selfish husband Dom – seriously, a man who leaves his family and then expects his wife to make all the concessions was not an easy character to connect with. It was in the passages where Rachel tries to balance her relationship with him for the sake of their children that I felt a bond with her, and really felt her frustration.

I also thought that Philip was a fascinating character – not because of his learning disabilities, but because of his extraordinary situation of having been cooped up in his mother’s house, having never learned to do anything for himself, right down to brushing his teeth. (The scene where Rachel teaches him is actually very touching – it’s one of my favourite moments in the book). I do wish we’d gained a bit more insight into his backstory – there are bits here and there, but he’s so crucial to the plot and yet sometimes it felt like he wasn’t getting as much character development as the others.

Kate worked as a residential social worker and I felt that she really conveyed the experience from the perspective of both patients and staff: it was really insightful for a reader like me who hasn’t had a first-hand experience with someone with learning disabilities. I liked that her writing was very concise, making it easy to follow the plot, although sometimes there were characters or passages I would have liked to read more of (which is actually a good thing!).

I would definitely recommend this as a leisurely summer read – the book is actually very uplifting and it’s not too intense, making it ideal for a beach holiday.

What are you all reading?

Speak soon,

Julie xxx

Apr 14

Top 5 big books worth attempting…

Hi everyone,

What have you all been reading this weekend? I was going to post some reviews of upcoming novels this week, but I got completely distracted by George Eliot’s Middlemarch. It got me thinking about other hefty novels I’ve read in the past, so I thought I’d share my top 5 with you all!

1. Middlemarch by George Eliot

Having just spent the week reading this novel, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. I’m not usually a big fan about stories set in provincial farm towns, but Middlemarch was very interesting to read, as it looks at big themes such as the status of women and the nature of marriage. Some of the characters are really selfish, but I liked that you get to see the story from the point of view of various characters, so it’s easier to understand their incentives.

2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace is epic – when I read it, I didn’t expect to love it as much as I did. I do love a good classic and there’s everything including heroic and dashing soldiers, illegitimate children, romance, epic battles… the list is endless. If you’re looking for a classic, epic novel, I’d definitely recommend this one.

3. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth

I studied A Suitable Boy at university, and it was one of my favourite novels. It’s one of the longest novels ever published in a single volume in the English language, so be prepared to commit for at least a week or two, but if you like post-colonial books, or stories spanning across generations, it’s a brilliant read. I can’t wait for the sequel, A Suitable Girl, which is due to come out in 2016!

4. Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

I’m a huge fan of the musical Les Misérables, so I figured I should actually read the original story. It’s epic – Victor Hugo covers love, religion, war, justice… basically if you can think of a theme, it’s probably in this novel. There’s so much more than the musical, so it was like discovering a completely new story. However be warned – it’s not the most cheerful of stories…

5. Ulysses by James Joyce

I’m not going to pretend that I understood what was going on 100% of the time throughout Ulysses, but it is beautifully written. If you’re a big fan of language/a literature student, Ulysses is definitely worth attempting to read – I’ve read it 3 times and every time I’ve found something new I love about it, both in terms of the story and also the way it’s written. (Also, this is the only writing by James Joyce I actually like!).

Have you read a hefty book you think is worth recommending? Let me know!

See you all next week,

Julie xxx


Apr 14

Living In Style: Inspiration and Advice for Everyday Glamour by Rachel Zoe

Book: Living in Style: Inspiration and Advice for Everyday Glamour
Author: Rachel Zoe
Publisher: Sphere
Available: Out now in hardback
If you enjoy this book you might like: The Fashion Book (Published by Phaidon)

Summary: Rachel Zoe – stylist, designer, editor and New York Times bestselling author – returns with a new book on living each day in beautiful style.


Hi everyone,


Hope you all had a lovely Easter weekend!


I was SO excited when a copy of Rachel Zoe’s new book landed on my desk just before the Easter break. Not only am I a huge fan of the designer, but the book itself is so beautiful. The stunning images and simple layout make it an ideal coffee-table book.


I’m obsessed with fashion, so it was great to get a sneak peek at a stylist’s tips for defining your style, and how to use that to enhance your body shape and dress in a flattering way. There’s a real personal touch as Rachel draws inspiration from her career in fashion and the people she has met, to reveal why she has found that certain tips or words of wisdom have worked for her.


Although Rachel Zoe is a fashion stylist, the book also caters for those who may not be as fussed about the fashion world. From great tips on how to furnish your home, to throwing a great, stress-free party, Rachel covers everything with a fun, unique twist.


What I also really loved about the book is that it surprised me with a travel section – although predominantly a book full of tips on how to look stylish/have an elegant home, I loved that Rachel, who has travelled a lot throughout her career, shared the places she found particularly glamorous and striking. It gave me a massive case of wanderlust!


I definitely recommend this book to add that little bit of extra glamour to your life!


Enjoy the rest of the bank holiday,


Julie xxx


PS Let me know what you’ve all been reading over the long weekend…

Apr 14

How To Be A Literary Genius by Jacqui Lofthouse

Book: How To Be A Literary Genius
Author: Jacqui Lofthouse
Publisher: Blackbird Digital Books
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: Will write for shoes: How to Write a Chick Lit Novel by Cathy Yardley

Summary: Anna has convinced herself that she never wanted to write a novel, but a chance encounter with a famous novelist makes a mark on Anna’s resolve. Before she knows it, she has enrolled on a creative writing course, fallen for her tutor (despite being engaged) and is mixing with the literati. As she navigates the chaos that comes with her new life, will she manage to save her sanity before she becomes a by-product of the literary world?


 Hi everyone,

Hope you had lovely, book-filled weekends! I spent it reading Jacqui Lofthouse’s How To Be A Literary Genius. I was expecting a ‘how to’ or self-help type of book, so I was pleasantly surprised when it turned out to be a novel.

The book follows author Anna as she decides to start writing her first novel, from the researching to the plot. There’s so much in there any aspiring author would definitely want to try, from a luxurious literary retreat in Greece, to getting the chance to go to the Groucho club and exchange ideas with your favourite authors.

The descriptions of the retreat in Greece made me get a serious case of wanderlust. Throw in books and authors everywhere and it basically became my idea of a perfect holiday (except maybe without the drama… but you’ll need to read it to find out what I’m talking about!). Jacqui’s writing is beautiful and descriptive, and she leaves just the right amount of gaps for the reader to fill in with their own imagination. For example, she describes the gorgeous  private writing rooms built into the mountainside, but we don’t really get an in-depth glimpse inside, which I liked because it meant you got to imagine your own ideal writing nook.

Although Anna is the main character, she wasn’t necessarily my favourite. I sometimes found her a bit selfish as she decides to write her novel and immediately happily drops everything around her. Yes dedication and passion are important, but I felt a bit like she sometimes she didn’t leave room for other meaningful things in life, like family and friends. Although there are points in the novel where she becomes very self-aware, sometimes it felt as though she immediately fell right back into her old habits.

One character I did absolutely love was Phyllis, Anna’s mother-in-law to be. Phyllis is both the nightmare mother-in-law (showing up uninvited, being quite intrusive, disregarding what people say when it’s not what she wants to hear), but she’s also the perfect mother-in-law, in her love for her son and her total acceptance of Anna into their family (for example worrying when she doesn’t come home). I loved her complicated relationship with Anna, as the two became quite close without necessarily realising it. Basically, she’s both confident and vulnerable, and brings a lot of comic relief in somewhat serious passages.

One issue I did have with the plot is that it’s a bit too fast paced at points, making it difficult to fully engage with the characters – sometimes character interactions seemed quite random. For example, Anna jumps from one love interest to another very swiftly, so it’s difficult to get attached and see it as a real romance. It would have also been nice to get a bit more background to her relationship with Will, as when their relationship deteriorated, it was difficult to care because we don’t really get to see them as a happy couple.

Overall, I think it’s definitely worth reading if you’re an aspiring author, or in the process of writing your novel/screenplay etc.

Also, I kind of loved the idea of an X-Factor type reality show of finding the next big author – it could be SUCH an amazing show, or totally awful. What do you think?

Hope you all have a lovely week – let me know what you’re reading!

Julie xx

Apr 14

Getting Waisted by Monica Parker

Book: Getting Waisted: A Survival Guide to Being Fat in a Society That Loves Thin
Author: Monica Parker
Publisher: HCI Books
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened (A mostly true memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Summary: Monica Parker bridges the divide between a serial dieter’s survival guide and memoir, taking readers on a hilariously funny yet bumpy ride from chubby baby to chunky adult. Beginning each chapter which a diet she committed to and how much weight, money and self-esteem she lost, Monica shares her fears and frustrations with society’s prejudices against overweight people, and learns that when you start liking yourself, life is far more rewarding.


Hi everyone,

Hope you all had lovely weeks – what will you be reading this weekend?

I’ve been completely absorbed in Monica Parker’s Getting Waisted. I’ve read a lot of books about people’s struggle with food, but rarely from the perspective of someone who society does consider overweight. What I loved about Monica’s book is that, despite the comments and prejudices she faces, she doesn’t let herself become a victim. She makes a lot of jokes and is very self-aware that her issues with food don’t simply depend on what people think – she is very open about the deeper emotional issues which lead her to comfort eat.

I will admit that I didn’t believe some of the diets she tried – I actually did a quick google search and was horrified to find out they actually existed, that people would actually put their bodies through such torture simply to try and lose some weight, and that someone somewhere is actually selling these ideas. So I loved that Monica is completely open about the side effects she faced, highlighting how unhealthy some of the diets were – there’s one where she ate so much fruit it started fermenting inside her stomach. I mean… that’s definitely not healthy!

Some of the stories really shocked me, particularly when she recounts people’s pressure to make her thinner. For example, arriving in Canada to meet her aunt, she is subjected to intense scrutiny from her family, who are determined to make her lost weight. Of course this intense pressure has the opposite effect as she turns to food for comfort, and I found myself angry on her behalf that someone felt it was their ‘duty’ to ‘fix’ her body.

The book isn’t just about dieting and food. Monica underlines the way her relationship with food is interlinked with the events in her life – moments of joy, for example when she is pregnant and for once people are accepting that her body isn’t what they consider ‘thin’, to the loss of both of her parents, as she comes to terms with her childhood and family life. Her move to Hollywood was where she really blossomed, as she pursued her love of writing, deciding to define herself by her talent rather than appearance, in a challenging environment where everyone is chasing physical ‘perfection’.

Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who has tried different diets – it definitely makes you appreciate that confidence comes from loving yourself, not letting yourself be defined by others.

Have a lovely weekend!

Julie xx

Apr 14

The Dead Wife’s Handbook by Hannah Beckerman

Book: The Dead Wife’s Handbook
Author: Hannah Beckerman
Publisher: Penguin
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Summary: Rachel, Max and their daughter Ellie had the perfect life – until the night Rachel’s heart stopped beating. Now, Max and Ellie are doing their best to adapt to life without Rachel. She can’t let them go either, and caught in a place between worlds, she watches helplessly as they grieve. When Max is persuaded by family and friends to start dating again, she starts to see that dying was just the beginning of her problems. As Rachel grieves for the life she’s lost and the one she’ll never lead, she learns that sometimes the thing that breaks your heart might be the very thing you hope for.

dwh (293x450)

Hi everyone,

Hope you’re having lovely, book-filled weekends. I’ve just finished Hannah Beckerman’s ‘The Dead Wife’s Handbook’, and although it’s not a depressing book, it’s definitely a sad story – I think I might have to read something funny next to cheer myself up!

The premise of Hannah’s book is really interesting – it definitely makes you think about your own mortality, and what you would do if you died, and were able to catch glimpses of your loved ones as they tried to pick up the pieces and move on with their lives. Although I don’t cry very easily at books, sometimes I found myself feeling a bit choked up, as Rachel’s inability to comfort her loved ones made me wonder what I would do if I was in her position. Plus, the idea of being unable to communicate with anyone despite desperately wanting to made me feel quite frustrated on Rachel’s behalf.

That being said, sometimes I found it difficult to relate to Rachel, but I think this is mostly because I am neither a mother nor a wife. I felt that she wasn’t always being fair to Max, assuming that every time he moved forward it meant he was forgetting her, when throughout the book it’s abundantly clear that he is making sure she never fades out of his and Ellie’s lives.

One character who I absolutely loved was Max. Max is awesome. He handles everything from family tensions to Ellie’s tough questions about her mother with diplomacy and understanding. The few times he snaps or struggles, I felt that Rachel and their family and friends were quite tough on him, sometimes seeming to be a bit unforgiving. But what’s clear is his love for his wife and daughter, and I liked that this was always at the forefront of the book. This had the potential to turn into a ‘father meets new woman and ditches daughter’ type of plot, but not at all. Instead, it’s a story about a father’s love for his daughter, and his attempts to put her first while still trying to pick himself up and find some happiness for himself.

Overall, this is a beautiful book about motherhood and family love. It’s not a book to read if you’re feeling a bit down, but I would definitely recommend it as a lazy Sunday read!

See you all next week!

Julie x

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