#BookADayUK September | Week Four

#BookADayUK September | Week Four
I participated in #BookADayUK in June and after a little break, I thought I’d participate again in September. This month it’s hosted by We Love This Book. I’ve also been tweeting and posting a new photo on Tumblr every day, so here’s a recap of the last week! Clicking on each image takes you to the Tumblr post.

#BookADayUK September | Week Four

22nd: Best book recommended by a bookseller
I actually don’t think I’ve ever asked a bookseller for a recommendation! But I did make my next John Wyndham purchase The Midwich Cuckoos after a bookseller recommended it while I was buying The Day of the Triffids and The Chrysalids.

#BookADayUK September | Week Four

23rd: Favourite prize-winning book
Ketchup Clouds is one of my favourite books of the year so far and it won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize in 2013. It’s an example of superb storytelling and a novel that encapsulates beautiful writing. Ketchup Clouds draws you in straight away and doesn’t let go until you are finally given some answers.

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Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Book Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
Anna and the French Kiss (#3)
Young adult fiction (contemporary, romance)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

Isla and the Happily Ever After was one of my most highly-anticipated novels of the year. Anna and the French Kiss is still one of my absolute favourite books and I read it for the third time this year. Did Isla beat Anna? No, but I did prefer it to Lola, and yet it made me appreciate certain aspects of Lola – such as seeing the familiar characters from a different point of view – a little more than I did before. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

In Isla and the Happily Ever After, we finally get to know the shy, quiet girl who we only briefly came across in Anna and the French Kiss, but who we knew had a crush on Josh Wasserstein. But I didn’t expect her to have such strong, intense emotions. I made the same mistake so many people do about shy people. As another shy, quiet girl, I do know what it’s like for people to look at you and think you have nothing substantial to offer, and so I actually really loved getting to see the different perceptions of Isla. And boy was this story intense.

Should Isla and Josh be together? It’s something you’ll be wondering throughout the story. At times, their relationship is adorable, sweet, and you can’t help feel that their teenagerdom is restricting them from being in a proper relationship. As a non-teenager, I can go wherever I want and do whatever I want. I do not need to ask my parents for permission, and Isla does remind you what it’s like to be a teenager and not have that luxury. But at other times, I couldn’t help but wonder whether it was so intense that Josh and Isla were actually in a toxic relationship, like those couples who couldn’t keep away from each other at university, but now are no longer together while the ones who could quite happily not call each other every single day are still together.

Isla and the Happily Ever After is enjoyable because, like the previous two books, you can understand why they want to be together. It doesn’t simply come out of no where, and so I love that Stephanie Perkins has written about three completely different kinds of relationships, each with their own highs and lows. Even though I wasn’t completely sure whether Isla and Josh should be in a relationship, I still wanted to fight for them – especially when pesky teachers and parents became involved! It was fun getting to see their relationship develop outside of the boarding school setting, surprisingly, when they were in New York City and Barcelona. I also grew to enjoy the cameos from Anna, Étienne, Lola, and Cricket, which I wasn’t completely sure about in Lola. I said they felt like different characters, and yet in Isla I came to feel like perhaps that’s the point. We’re just seeing one perception of people all the time and it was refreshing to think, actually, is the way we see people actually the way they really are? And like most fans, I did rather enjoy that ending!

Isla and the Happily Ever marks the end of four years of young adult contemporary romance from Stephanie Perkins (although we still have her short story in My True Love Gave to Me, which will be my Christmas read), and it ended on a good note. I’m looking forward to seeing what else she can offer in her next book, a young adult horror novel!


Published: 14th August 2014
Publisher: Dutton (US) Usborne (UK
Pages: 375

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Book Review: Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Young adult fiction (contemporary, magical realism)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

“I was sent here because of a boy. His name was Reeve Maxfield, and I loved him and then he died, and almost a year passed and no one knew what to do with me”.

I really enjoyed Belzhar. I expected to, because it’s ‘literary’ YA contemporary, set in a kind of boarding school setting, with a little mystery. So yes, I did expect to enjoy it. But the more I talk about it with friends, the more I realise it did have quite an impact on me. I’d heard it was a bit ‘odd’ and ‘weird’. If you begin the book knowing that there’s a little bit of magical realism, you do expect there to be something a little different about the world the characters are living in, and in this case, it’s ‘Belzhar’.

Belzhar is a mix of contemporary fiction – a group of ‘highly intelligent’ and ‘emotional fragile’ teenagers have been sent to The Wooden Barn, a stepping stone before they can go back to ‘normal’ life and a regular school. They’re there to work through their mental state, whatever that may be – sometimes caused by a particular experience, sometimes not – and one group of students taking ‘Special Topics in English’ discover Belzhar, a place where they can revisit what they’ve been through, but without the grief and trauma.

Belzhar has received mixed reviews so far, but don’t necessarily jump straight to thinking ‘okay, well I won’t read that one’, because it’s one where it’s actually brilliant that people have had such strong feelings about particular aspects of the story or characters. (And aspects that I’m not even sure we’re meant to like). It provides a lot to talk about, and how you feel about the book – and its characters – can depend on how you feel on the day. I would have enjoyed it even more if I had empathised with the main protagonist, Jam, from the very beginning – although I’m not sure if I ever empathised with her at all, but began to simply accept – but falling in love with a boy you’ve only known for 41 days will always be difficult for me to accept. I forgave Reeve’s stereotypically British behaviour because we’re seeing him through Jam’s eyes, and this was something she particularly loved about him. Although I felt this way towards the main character, I loved the way the story was constructed and the way it progressed – I thought it was clever, unexpected and quite thought-provoking. And it noticed that often people do go through things that have a profound negative impact on them, but seem insignificant to other people. It’s a book where you could easily write a review full of spoilers because there’s a lot to discuss, mainly ‘real or not real?’ and ‘acceptable or unacceptable?’.

If you’re unsure about Belzhar and yet you usually love YA contemporary novels, give it a go because it had a lot of the things I enjoy about the genre, but it also was refreshing in the way it looked at things a little differently.

Published: 30th September 2014 (US) 9th October 2014 (UK)
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile (US) Simon & Schuster (UK)
Pages: 272
Source: Thank you to the publisher for providing this book for review!

#BookADayUK September | Week Three

#BookADayUK September | Week Three
I participated in #BookADayUK in June and after a little break, I thought I’d participate again in September. This month it’s hosted by We Love This Book. I’ve also been tweeting and posting a new photo on Tumblr every day, so here’s a recap of the third week! Clicking on each image takes you to the Tumblr post.

#BookADayUK September | Week Three

15th: Favourite Agatha Christie mystery
I’ve only read three Agatha Christie books: And Then There Were None, Death on the Nile & Murder on the Orient Express, but I think And Then There Were None will be my favourite for a long time because I cannot imagine a more brilliant mystery! It may not be a book I’ll treasure forever but after reading it, I wanted to enthusiastically recommend it to everyone I knew. It has those moments that make you sit up and gasp, and wonder how you didn’t notice them before.

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#BookADayUK September | Week Two

#BookADayUK September | Week Two
I participated in #BookADayUK in June and after a little break, I thought I’d participate again in September. This month it’s hosted by We Love This Book. I’ve also been tweeting and posting a new photo on Tumblr every day, so here’s a recap of the second week! Clicking on each image takes you to the Tumblr post.

#BookADayUK September | Week Two

8th: Favourite literary dinner party
I’m terrible at picking characters to invite to fictional dinner parties, so I’ve chosen one of my favourite books featuring FOOD. Obviously I picked a book about cannibals. Matt Whyman’s The Savages is ‘dark humour at its best and I cannot imagine I’ll ever come across a book like it again’, I said in my book review. OH WAIT. I now have the SEQUEL, American Savage. I’m looking forward to devouring it.

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#BookADayUK September | Week One

#BookADay September | Week One
I participated in #BookADayUK in June and after a little break, I thought I’d participate again in September. This month it’s hosted by We Love This Book. I’ve also been tweeting and posting a new photo on Tumblr every day, so here’s a recap of the first week! Clicking on each image takes you to the Tumblr post.

#BookADay September | Week One
#BookADay September | Week One
1st: Favourite book about books and/or bookshops
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan and The Collected Works of A.J. Fikry (also known as The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry) by Gabrielle Zevin are two very different books but are amongst my favourite books about bookshops! I wrote a blogpost about books for book lovers earlier this year and these two were featured. I love books about books!

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Behold the Pretty Books! / August Book Haul

Behold the Pretty Books! / August Book Haul

Here’s the books that I bought and received in August:

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
The Complete Collected Short Stories Volume One & Volume Two by Roald Dahl
Day 21 by Kass Morgan
The Dogs by Alan Stratton
Half Bad by Sally Green
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan
A Girl Called Jack by Jack Monroe
The Little Book of Lunch by Caroline Craig & Sophie Missing
Penguin’s Great Food series by Various
Lockwood: The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud (e-galley)
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (eBook)

As you may know, I’m trying to buy all my books from bookshops this year, but if a book is extremely cheap or unavailable from bookshops, I have been using Hive and Wordery. I hold my hands up – I haven’t abandoned online book shopping completely! I can’t quite remember how I came across it, but when I saw that The Book People were selling Penguin’s Great Food series for only £5, there was no way I was going to be able to resist. I love a sale as much as anyone else! I also bought The Complete Collected Short Stories Volume One & Volume Two by Roald Dahl for £4.99. I have been a little curious about his short stories for years, but not being much of a fan of short stories (as I’ve said numerous times), I hadn’t gotten around to reading them. After now having read a few of Roald Dahl’s children’s novels and loving them, I’m willing to give them a try.

As I’ve had two cookbooks on my wishlist for a while – A Girl Called Jack (recipes for making inexpensive but delicious meals) and The Little Book of Lunch (because it’s about time I stop buying lunch and start making it) – I also thought it was the perfect excuse to add them to my basket. I’m looking forward to trying out recipes from both books!

I was also sent two books unexpectedly for review: The Dogs, which I’ve not heard too much about yet since it’s not published until February (about a boy and his mother who go on the run), and Day 21, the sequel to The 100 (about a bunch of kids who are sent to Earth from space to see whether it’s survivable after a nuclear war). I’ve only seen a few episodes of the TV show – I need to catch up.

I also visited a used bookshop and was delighted to come across The Luminaries for £1. It’s one I’ve been curious about since it won the Man Booker Prize in 2013, but I have no idea whether it’s something I’ll enjoy. It’s time to find out! I also downloaded a few books: the sequel to The Screaming Staircase, which I’m determined to read this year, and We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which is longlisted for this year’s Man Booker Prize. I already know the ‘twist’, but hopefully I’ll still enjoy it.

And lastly, I was given two books by friends: Helen gave me a physical copy of Half Bad (I already have it on my Kindle) and Jim gave me Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, since I also have read a few other David Levithan and Rachel Cohn books.

Have you read any of these books?

Behold the Pretty Books! / August Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / August Book Haul

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Book Review: Relish – My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Book Review: Relish – My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

Shelved: Non-fiction (graphic novel, memoir)
Buy: Hive
More: Goodreads

In the spirit of a foodie Bank Holiday weekend (I blogged about Penguin’s Great Food series yesterday), it seemed only appropriate to start my review of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen too. I first came across this foodie graphic memoir when I saw that it had been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award in 2013. I love books and I love food, so I added it to my wishlist straight away. It wasn’t until last month that I finally got around to buying it, after a trip to Gosh! Comics with Debbie. We had never visited Gosh! before (neither of us have read many graphic novels or comics) and were looking forward to it. We loved the huge curated display table as soon as you set foot through the door, and this is where we found Relish (Debbie bought Friends with Boys). We both definitely want to go back, especially because the staff were super friendly.

I loved Relish as soon as I started reading it. It’s 29-year-old Lucy’s graphic memoir of growing up surrounded by food and food lovers, from her chef mum’s home cooking to exotic foodie adventures on trips abroad – what food means to her and what food she particularly loves, and what memories they bring back. She says, ‘I can remember exactly the look and taste of a precious honey stick, balanced between my berry-stained fingers, but my times tables are long gone, forgotten, in favour of better, tastier memories’. Lucy’s drawings are wonderful and colourful – an exquisite mix of food writing and delicious illustrations. You can’t really ask for more.

I relate to her because she’s a foodie, but not a food snob. She love artisan bread and good quality chocolate, but she won’t say no to McDonald’s or a packet of Oreos. (‘We wouldn’t be eating it if it didn’t taste good’). She writes so eloquently, but clearly, showing us how memories of food are memories of growing up, and how tasting all the different flavours – from home and from other cultures – is like no other experience. I craved so many different kinds of food while reading Relish, including food I’ve never even tried (where can I find a tomatillo or honey sticks?). At the end of each chapter, there’s an easy-to-follow tasty recipe to make one of the foods featured in that chapter, such as the best chocolate chip cookies and sushi rolls. It was perfect for bedtime reading and it made me want to pick up more graphic novels – and eat more food!

I can’t wait to pick up her travelogue, French Milk, next and her new book, An Age of License: A Travelogue, is published in September. She also posts lots of lovely things on Tumblr.

Published: 26th April 2013
Publisher: First Second
Pages: 192

Behold the Pretty Books! / July Book HaulBehold the Pretty Books! / July Book Haul