Posts Tagged: Book review


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.

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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

 


5
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. 

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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

 


6
Aug 14

New Day by Emma Gibbens

Book: New Day
Author: Emma Gibbens
Available: Out now in ebook format
If you like this you might also enjoy: Bridget Jones’ Diary
Summary: Emma’s protagonist decides to start a diary, following her life every day as she tries to get her first book published while still managing her life and relationships.

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Hi everyone,

Hope you’re all having book-filled weeks! For my second review of the week, I thought I’d talk about Emma Gibbens’ debut novel New Day, which I’ve been reading the last few days – it’s broken up into diary entries which makes it a perfect commute read as it’s easy to stop/start without forgetting what’s going on!

One thing I really liked about New Day is the way that it’s a diary of an ordinary woman – there’s loads of relatable everyday scenarios such as trying to get back into exercise, navigating family disputes, buying a house.. and even getting a book published! (Okay, that last one might be a bit more niche but I know lots of wonderful people writing incredible novels at the moment!).

Emma’s book has some funny and quirky moments, including a misunderstanding over a stolen kayak, and I found it very easy to read and keep up with.

I’d recommend this book if you’re commuting, or simply travelling – it’s easy to read and the diary format means you can keep up with it even if you need to put it down briefly!

What are you all reading?

Julie xx


27
Jul 14

Ishmael’s Oranges by Claire Hajal

Book: Ishmael’s Oranges
Author: Claire Hajal
Publisher: Oneworld Publications
Available: Out now in hardback
If you enjoy this book you might like: O Jerusalem – Larry Collins & Dominique LaPierre
Summary: One minute seven-year-old Salim is dreaming of taking his first harvest from his family’s orange tree, the next he is swept away into a life of exile and rage. Seeking a new beginning in 1960s’ London, Salim find unexpected love with Jude , a troubled Jewish girl with her own devastating family history. But before long, childhood conflicts and prejudices reawaken to infringe upon their life together.

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Hi everyone!

Apologies for the long break from posts – I was lucky enough to escape to the South of France for a week or so, and while I got a lot of reading done, I wasn’t able to post.

This week, I’ve been reading Claire Hajal’s beautiful novel Ishmael’s Oranges. It gives you a deep insight into the conflicts in the Middle East, contrasting a really sweet love story between Salim and Jude, who come from different sides of an ongoing battle.

It’s a story about identity, family and trying to let go of a deep bitterness in order to move on. There are some truly heartwrenching passages, especially at the beginning when we see Salim’s childhood drastically change when his family suddenly lose everything, having been betrayed by their friends.

The love story between Salim and Jude is wonderfully written. It’s not at all like Romeo and Juliet – Salim and Jude’s families object but don’t stop them from being together. I love that their relationship isn’t kicked off with in a dramatic way – they simply meet, fall in love, and they decide to try and make it work despite the powerful barriers they face.

Salim at times I found to be a bit selfish, but Claire writes in a way that you understand his motivations, so I never found myself disliking him. Jude was a brilliant character – I found her really interesting because she hasn’t got a defining character trait, for example she’s not overly shy or much too confident. I think that was one of my favourite things about this novel – there’s no exaggeration, it’s all very matter-of-fact, so you really feel for all of the characters.

Definitely a great read if you want to learn a bit more about this conflict without having to hit the non-fiction books.

What have you all been reading this week?

Julie x


11
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.

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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


6
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.

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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


31
Mar 14

Secrets in the Shadows by Hannah Emery

Book: Secrets in the Shadows
Author: Hannah Emery
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this book you might like: The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Summary: In 1920s Blackpool, 11-year-old Rose wanders away from her parents and has a unique gift bestowed upon her. One which will leave a haunting legacy. Decades later, Louisa has a vision of her mother walking into the sea. It’s not her first vision, and she finds herself spending her life trying to change the revelations that haunt her. In present day Blackpool, Grace struggles to understand her visions, and struggles as her twin sister Elsie plans a wedding with the man Grace loves. All three generations must make a choice – in the face of certain destiny, do you chase what’s ‘meant to be’, or throw away fate and make your own future?

secretsintheshadows

 

Hi everyone,

Hope you had great weekends! I’ve been completely hooked on Hannah Emery’s Secrets in the Shadows – it’s one of my favourite reads so far this year, so I might gush a bit (sorry). I absolutely love novels where different eras intertwine and that’s exactly what happens in Hannah’s book. The book follows the stories of Rose, her daughter Louisa, and Louisa’s daughters Grace and Elsie. The plot seamlessly jumps between the past and present, and I found myself completely involved as each generation tries to make sense of the past generation’s mistakes.

What’s awesome about Hannah’s novel is that, although the women can see into the future, it’s not the main theme of the book. It’s obviously important, but the real focus is on the mother-daughter relationships in the novel. There’s a particular scene where Elsie overhears Louisa talking about the girls, and concludes that her mother loves one twin more than the other: it’s a really heart-breaking moment, and we eventually hear Louisa’s side (although I won’t reveal too much). Initially, when Rose disappears you are left wondering how she could simply abandon her daughter, but as the story progresses you get more of her story – I still wasn’t sympathetic but I was surprised to find that I understood her decision a bit more.

That’s what is so great about this book – the constant jumping from past to present means that you get the full story, but it’s not a predictable storyline. For example, when it comes to the love triangle that Grace and Elsie find themselves in, at points I thought I guessed what would happen, but Hannah throws in a few unexpected twists (I won’t tell you which ones but if you read the book, you’ll definitely see what I mean!).

This is a great novel about women and how mothers, daughters, sisters and friends interact. There isn’t a ‘nice woman vs horrible woman’ plot – all the women are flawed but it’s the way they try and overcome these flaws so that they can help each other that makes this such a brilliant book.

A great read if you’re currently trying to make some big decisions in your life… Also, if you were a fan of the TV show That’s So Raven, this is kind of like its more serious, novel-formatted sister.


10
Mar 14

How To Get A (Love) Life by Rosie Blake

Book: How To Get A (Love) Life
Author: Rosie Blake
Publisher: Novelicious Books
Available: Out now, e-book format
If you enjoy this book you might like: The Girls’ Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Banks

Summary: Nicola Brown is the kind of girl who double-locks the front door, leaves the plastic covering on new furniture, sticks to a super-strict diet and definitely, absolutely Does Not Date. Exasperated by her reluctance to have fun, her colleague Caroline decides that enough is enough, and challenges Nicola to find true love by Valentine’s Day. As Nicola steps out of her comfort zone and faces some disastrous dates, she slowly finds herself having fun…

 

How To Get A (Love) Life by Rosie Blake Cover (323x500)

Think of the worst date you’ve ever been on. Was it worse than being forced to go kayaking in the middle of November? Because that’s exactly what Rosie Blake’s protagonist Nicola finds herself doing when she agrees to be more adventurous in her dating life (even if that was way over the line). The dates in How To Get A (Love) Life can be excruciatingly awkward, but they’re hilarious. From a guy who won’t share a bag of popcorn, to a teacher who quite clearly has some unresolved issues with his career, Rosie captures worst-case-scenarios and turns them into hilarious anecdotes (Although I definitely hope I never have to go through one in real life).

That’s not to say that this book will put you off dating – there are some brilliant male characters. Nicola’s brother Mark is a smart, laid-back guy who is determined to win over the love of his life, and happily gets involved in setting Nicola up on dates (some of the most disastrous ones in my opinion). Then there’s Nicola’s dashing boss James, a potential love interest who is dating Thalia, his “nasty supermodel girlfriend with great clothes”.

It’s not too difficult to figure out where the plot is heading, but Rosie writes in a way that you find yourself actually looking forward to seeing what Nicola will go through in her search for true love. Even with her strict routine, you can relate to her as we’ve all had moments where we’ve been forced to step out of our comfort zone, so it’s easy to identify with her as she musters up the courage and energy to complete her mission. I did think she accepts the challenge fairly openly for someone who is supposed to be so close-minded to new things, but Rosie delves a little deeper into Nicola’s past so you get a better understand of where she’s coming from.

Because the plot is easy to follow and the book is broken up into Nicola’s various dates, it’s a great read for when you’re commuting.

 

 


22
Feb 14

From Dust to Dust and a Lifetime in Between by Katherine Anne Lee

Book: From Dust to Dust and a Lifetime in Between
Author: Katherine Anne Lee
Available: Monday 24th February
If you enjoy this book you might like: One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez

SummaryDevoted grandmother Mollie Cooke always dreamed of writing her own eventful life story, but sadly dementia robbed her of the opportunity. Mollie’s granddaughter Katherine has finally published her biography, two years after Mollie’s death at the age of 96. Discover the momentous events in Mollie’s life from her childhood in the countryside, to the tragic losses in her life, and her final struggle with dementia.

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Picking up Katherine Anne Lee’s novel, I was a little apprehensive – I wasn’t sure whether it would be easy to connect with someone else’s grandmother in a book which was essentially a tribute. So I was pleasantly surprised to find myself growing increasingly attached to Mollie, the protagonist, as she navigated her way through the highs and lows of life. By the time I finished the novel, it felt as if I had lost a family member of my own.

Mollie’s story is beautiful, but sad. She experiences tragic losses in her life, notably of people who are extremely important to her (I won’t say who as I don’t want to spoil it for you), and the way Katherine writes allows you to experience Mollie’s devastation right alongside her.

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The novel also deals with hard-hitting themes such as war, however it doesn’t delve too deeply into what is happening outside of Mollie’s life. When World War II erupted, she was a young woman old enough to understand what was happening around her. The focus remains on the small rural town in which she lives, making it easier to get drawn into her story as you experience the devastation on a more personal level.

Cancer is another emotionally-difficult theme in the book, but I found Katherine’s representation of it particularly interesting. Imagining it as creatures that enter Mollie’s dreams and taunt her as it attacks her loved ones, it really emphasised the way Mollie felt it was an invisible monster, and constantly preyed on her mind.

Moving away from the sadder themes, I really enjoyed the way love was presented in the book. When Mollie meets her first husband Jack, it’s an all-consuming, romantic love, full of dreamy dates and love letters. When Mollie meets her second husband Billy, it’s a quiet, unassuming love: she slowly falls for him and when the two eventually wed, she remarks how safe she feels in his arms.

At 96-year-olds, Mollie’s journey through life is epic, but what I really loved about the book is the way Katherine makes you feel that time is passing by too quickly, so you really feel for Mollie both through the ups and downs. It’s what makes the dementia passages so moving: you experience everything with Mollie and then watch her final struggle as she tries to remember it all. It can be frustrating as a reader, because you know the answers and want to help her.

The novel is beautifully written, and Mollie’s story is definitely worth a read.


18
Feb 14

The Vintage Girl by Hester Browne

Book: The Vintage Girl
Author: Hester Browne
Publisher: Quercus Publishing
Available: Out now
If you enjoy this you might like: The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic – Sophie Kinsella

Summary: Evie Nicholson is obsessed with all things vintage, so when her sister volunteers her to visit Kettlesheer Castle in Scotland to archive family heirlooms, she thinks she’s hit the jackpot. However, in each heirloom lies a story, and as Evie uncovers long-buried family secrets, she becomes increasingly determined to find the truth. Add the handsome, gloomy heir Robert McAndrew and a traditional candlelit ball in the mix, and Evie’s heart is sent reeling. 

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It usually takes a lot for a book to make me laugh, but Hester Browne’s The Vintage Girl is very funny – it has all the elements of a great romantic comedy.

The main character, Evie Nicholson, is very easy to identify with, especially for those of us who have a slight tendency to hoard. As she gets carried away with fantasies of living in the past, it’s almost impossible not to be swept along with her, as Hester Browne gives us the fairytale-esque setting of a Scottish estate, complete with a candlelit ball. The book definitely caters to vintage-lovers, with descriptions of huge rooms filled with antiques, vintage clothes, and even some undiscovered gems…

Evie’s love interests, the dashing Fraser and gloomy Robert, provide a great love triangle: Fraser is essentially a Prince Charming, but I found Robert to be more interesting as his character was a bit more flawed, for example his complete indifference to the family’s heritage.

There are some really funny characters, particularly the estate owner Duncan, who tries to create his own brewery. Evie’s sister Alice was one of my favourites because she constantly both causes and solves problems for her sister, including letting Evie cover up when she drops out of an important dance at the ball, giving no explanation.

While the plot line was sometimes a little bit predictable, it doesn’t stop the book from being really fun to read – I would definitely recommend it for a lazy Sunday.

 

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