Review: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Title: The Bookish Life of Nina Hill

Author: Abbi Waxman

Genre: Contemporary

Pages: 351

Source: Bought

My Rating: 3 stars


The Blurb

The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.

When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?

Nina considers her options.

1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)

It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.


Thoughts

Unpopular opinion time, I didn’t love this book. I mean, I wanted to and based on the synopsis and all of the glowing reviews I was pretty positive going in that I would but it just didn’t work for me. It may just be a case of poor timing, I was in a grumpy mood, but I found myself becoming increasingly irritated by it and the more I read the more irritated I got.

In theory it should have been the perfect read for me, quirky characters, a bookshop setting, lots of literary and pop culture references, a cat and a little bit of romance. And there was definitely a lot to like but there was something about the writing style and the tone of the story which rubbed me up the wrong way from the very start. Yes the characters are quirky and eccentric but it feels like it’s trying too hard. I think it’s supposed to be funny but it wasn’t really my sense of humour so I found it a bit dull and by the end was left wondering what the point of it was.

I guess it’s supposed to be about Nina’s development from anxious introvert to someone who puts themselves out there with other people but to be honest I never really bought the anxious introvert thing so it didn’t seem like there was much development. If I’m being brutally honest I didn’t even like Nina that much. Anxious and introverted just seemed to mean rude, inconsiderate and judgemental (there’s some serious book snobbery). Someone who has a wide circle of friends, is out every night of the week and seems to like being at the centre of things doesn’t sound very introverted or shy to me and she had no problem standing up for herself or speaking her mind. I expected much more of a loner, not a social butterfly.

The story itself did have promise. Nina discovers she has a whole family she didn’t know about and meets them while simultaneously getting to know quiz team rival Tom who is inexplicably (she’s nothing but horrible to him) interested in her. If there had been a little more depth or emotion I think it could have been a really good story but the tone remains upbeat and quirky throughout which I think sort of spoiled things.

The switches in perspective from one paragraph to the next also confused me. The majority of the story is from Nina’s pov but every so often it’d switch to Tom or one of the other characters, usually in the middle of a chapter with no indication. It’d take me a few seconds to figure out what’d happened by which time we’d be back to Nina.

I’m also not sure I saw the point of cat Phil other than to go all out on the stereotype of bookish spinster with cat. And having Nina imagining what he was saying just seemed silly, like pretty much most of the things she imagined.

As for the romance, it felt a little tacked on and lacklustre. There wasn’t any real chemistry between them and she was so rude to Tom I honestly couldn’t see why he bothered.

There were a few nice moments, I liked a couple of the secondary characters and I do love a book with lots of literary references but I’m afraid on the whole it was a bit of a disappointment.

Review: Family for Beginners by Sarah Morgan

Family For BeginnersIf you’re looking for some gentle escapism this summer I don’t think you can go too far wrong with Sarah Morgan’s Family For Beginners. With a story about love, blended families and grief it’s a bit of an emotional read but has the usual warmth I’ve come to expect. It may not be my favourite book from the author but I do think a lot of people will love it.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

New York florist Flora Donovan is living the dream, but her bubbly optimism hides a secret. She’s lonely. Orphaned as a child, she’s never felt like she’s belonged anywhere…until she meets Jack Parker. He’s the first man to ever really see her, and it’s life changing.

Teenager Izzy Parker is holding it together by her fingertips. Since her mother passed away a year ago, looking after her dad and little sister is the only thing that makes Izzy feel safe. Discovering her father has a new girlfriend is her worst nightmare – she is not in the market for a replacement mom. Then, her father invites Flora on their summer vacation….

Flora’s heart aches for Izzy, but she badly wants her relationship with Jack to work. As the summer unfolds, Flora must push her own boundaries to discover parts of herself she never knew existed – and to find the family she’s always wanted.


MY THOUGHTS

I’m a big fan of Sarah Morgan’s writing and always enjoy her books but I’m afraid this one didn’t quite hit the mark for me. It has the same wonderful and warm writing I’ve come to expect from the author, well rounded characters and a real sense of place but I just didn’t get on with the story or main character Flora. It may simply be a case of the wrong book at the wrong time but I didn’t fly through this in the way I usually do with Morgan’s books.

Over her last few books, the author has been gradually moving away from the romance and into much more relationship and family type stories and Family for Beginners takes us further along that route. There’s very little in the way of romance in this story with the focus on florist Flora who so desperately wants to find a place where she belongs, a family who will accept her. After her mother died when she was young, Flora was raised by a cold and distant aunt who made it perfectly clear she wasn’t wanted and was an inconvenience. When she meets Jack Parker, recently widowed and father to two girls, she thinks she’s found somewhere she could belong.

Unfortunately Jack’s eldest daughter Izzy is not so keen on Flora coming into their lives and trying to fix everything. She’s barely keeping it together as it is so is determined to see the back of Flora. When Jack invites Flora to come with the family on a trip to the Lake District, Izzy is not happy and neither is Claire, the family friend they will be staying with. Secrets come to light and Flora discovers more about Jack (and herself) but will there be a happily ever after?

There is a lot to like in this story, I loved the lake district setting, I loved how well rounded and real the characters felt, the relationships between them and the way they developed over the course of the story. Morgan’s writing is as always wonderful and there’s a lot of emotion in those pages. I suspect if you love reading stories about families and family relationships you’ll really enjoy this book.

Unfortunately however I found myself becoming frustrated and annoyed with it and I’m afraid it was mostly down to Flora. She is exactly the kind of character I hate reading and I just found it so difficult to relate to her. I could understand the why behind how she is and I could empathize with her but I just found her endless positivity and optimism annoying. She’s a people pleaser who tries to fix everything which is pretty much the antithesis of me. She does develop over the story but I spent a lot of my time reading this book wanting to shake her and tell her to stop trying so damn hard all of the time.

It probably didn’t help that I couldn’t see the attraction in Jack as there wasn’t a lot of time spent in developing the relationship between them. Their first dates happen off the page and they’re never really alone together. As a result there’s no spark or chemistry between them making it hard to see why Flora was so desperate for the relationship to work. Flora seems to feel sorry for him and seems more attracted to the idea of rescuing him and finding a ready made family. As for Jack, he never feels fully present in the story and I had no real sense of who he is. He’s closed off, distant and completely oblivious to the feelings of those around him. Flora keeps saying how much he sees her but I didn’t feel like he showed it in the story. Maybe though it’s just because we never get his pov.

Izzy, whose pov we do get was actually the most likeable of the characters to me. She’s an absolute mess of emotions, anger, guilt, sadness, but she felt believable and relateable. She’s grieving her mother, dealing with a lot of changes in her life and hiding a huge secret. I really felt for her throughout the story, even when she was being kind of horrible.

I did think the author did a brilliant job throughout the story of portraying the different ways people deal with loss and how the loss of her mother still affects Flora many years later. This does make it a little bit darker than some of Morgan’s other books but there are moments of light in there too to balance it out nicely. I may have shed one or two tears but I did find myself smiling in places too and I very much enjoyed the conclusion.

Overall I think a lot of people will love this story but there were a few too many things that I found annoying or frustrating for it to be a favourite.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review

Review: The Switch by Beth O’Leary

The SwitchWarm and funny, The Switch by Beth O’Leary is the kind of uplifting book I think we all need just now. The storyline may feel a little familiar but I loved the sense of community, family, friendship and love that runs throughout. I highly recommend to anyone looking for a feelgood read.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

Eileen is sick of being 79.
Leena’s tired of life in her twenties.
Maybe it’s time they swapped places…

When overachiever Leena Cotton is ordered to take a two-month sabbatical after blowing a big presentation at work, she escapes to her grandmother Eileen’s house for some overdue rest. Eileen is newly single and about to turn eighty. She’d like a second chance at love, but her tiny Yorkshire village doesn’t offer many eligible gentlemen.

Once Leena learns of Eileen’s romantic predicament, she proposes a solution: a two-month swap. Eileen can live in London and look for love. Meanwhile Leena will look after everything in rural Yorkshire. But with gossiping neighbours and difficult family dynamics to navigate up north, and trendy London flatmates and online dating to contend with in the city, stepping into one another’s shoes proves more difficult than either of them expected.

Leena learns that a long-distance relationship isn’t as romantic as she hoped it would be, and then there is the annoyingly perfect – and distractingly handsome – school teacher, who keeps showing up to outdo her efforts to impress the local villagers. Back in London, Eileen is a huge hit with her new neighbours, but is her perfect match nearer home than she first thought?


MY THOUGHTS

As a massive fan of O’Leary’s debut, The Flatshare, I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on an advance copy of her new book The Switch. Unfortunately however while I did very much enjoy it, I’m not sure it quite lived up to expectations (although to be fair these were probably unreasonably high).

The story is great, the characters are likeable and it’s warm and funny and incredibly sweet. It’s pretty much a big hug in book form. However while I more or less devoured the whole thing in an afternoon, I feel it’s missing that special something to lift it from a great read to a stand out one and I have a horrible feeling that in a few weeks I’ll have forgotten all about it.

It may be that I’ve been overdosing on romcoms and contemporaries lately (they’re pretty much the only genres I can focus on right now) but I felt The Switch was a little lacking in originality. The story seemed a bit too familiar and I’ve read more than one book where different generations of women discover they have something to learn from each other.

I did love the characters and the way they developed over the course of the story. Also really loved how many older characters had starring roles. Eileen in particular was a joy to read and I thought the author did a wonderful job of portraying an older person whose body may be slowing down but whose determination and passions are as strong as ever. I loved her adventurous spirit but I also loved how she created a community everywhere she went and how protective she is of those she cares about.

Leena took a little longer to grow on me. I could certainly relate to her but I think it’s safe to say she’s a bit of a mess at the start of the story and she’s keeping a lot bottled up inside which makes her come across as uptight. I found her inability to stop and relax frustrating, I mean, who complains about being given a couple of months paid leave (and I don’t mean because you’ve been furloughed and can’t go anywhere or see anyone). She does however develop quite nicely over the course of the story and I grew to really like her.

I also loved the relationships within the novel, the friendships old and new (some of which are unlikely) and also the romance. There are quite a few sparks flying and while it is a little predictable I was happy to go along for the ride.

I maybe would’ve preferred less secondary characters so they could be developed a bit further but each and every one does have a role in the story and they do all feel authentic if a bit eccentric at times.

Overall a great read that’s perfect for a lazy day or when you’re in need of a bit of cheering up.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane

If I Never Met You
If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane takes one of my absolutely favourite romance tropes and brings something fresh to it. It’s sweet and funny but there’s also a surprising depth to it and I loved how relevant and real it felt. I loved the romance but I also loved the diversity, the friendships and the many other little threads woven through the story.


WHAT’S IT ABOUT

When Laurie’s partner of eighteen years, Dan, dumps her to ‘find himself’ (and leave her on the shelf at 36), she is blindsided. But not as blindsided as when he announces that his new girlfriend is now pregnant.

Working in the same office with Dan is soon unbearable – until the day she gets stuck in the lift with her handsome colleague Jamie. Jamie is looking for a way to improve his reputation in the company and what better way for Jamie to advance and Laurie to give the rumour mill something else to talk about than a fake relationship?

As Laurie and Jamie progress from Instagram snaps to dates, dancing and more, Laurie feels herself falling further for her unlikely hero. But you can’t break your heart in a fake relationship. Can you?


MY THOUGHTS

The fake relationship trope is one of absolute faves, so when I heard one of my favourite writers next book was gonna have just that I knew I had to read it. Yes it’s been done many, many times before but McFarlane brings something fresh and new to it. With a feminist slant to it and some clever messaging around social media and dating apps this feels very now and extremely relevant.

Main character Laurie is very relatable and incredibly likeable. She’s clever, determined, good at her job and fiercely loyal to her friends. Her devastation at long term partner Dan leaving her and moving straight on with another woman is very real and I was angry and upset right along with her.

It makes it very believable that she agrees to a fake relationship with co worker Jamie, despite warnings from her best friend Emily that she’s not cut out for lying and there will be consequences.

Jamie for his part is new book boyfriend material. He’s just lovely. He has an admittedly well deserved reputation with women but he’s completely upfront and honest in his views and is actually very sweet, attentive and considerate to Laurie.

They may be very different but it’s clear from the start that they’re perfect for each other. They just seem comfortable together, they understand each other and yes there is most definitely a spark. It isn’t insta love however so it’s a joy to watch them discover their feelings gradually.

I also have to say how much I loved the secondary characters. They may not all have big roles in the story but each and every one was memorable. Nadia in particular was an absolute stand out for me, in a batshit crazy, unintentionally hilarious kind of way. I want her as my bestie.

Another highlight for me was the depth to the story, the other threads woven through which highlighted a lot of very current issues, the everyday sexism Laurie faces in a workplace dominated by men, the racist comments, dating apps, the dangers of social media and also families. It’s incredibly well done by the author. I’m positive every book McFarlane writes is better than the last and I just love her style.

Overall this is a great read with real depth, diversity and wonderful writing. I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys a contemporary romance.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. This has in no way influenced my review. If I Never Met You will be published on the 1st January 2020 (so not too long to wait)

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Review: How to be Famous by Caitlin Moran

How to Be Famous by Caitlin Moran
How to Be Famous
by Caitlin Moran

I absolutely loved How to Build a Girl so was very much looking forward to picking up How to Be Famous. Unfortunately however, while it has all of the things that made the first book so great I was a little disappointed. It’s still brutally honest, funny and main character Johanna is one of a kind but I just found my attention wandering at times.


THE BLURB

I’m Johanna Morrigan, and I live in London in 1995, at the epicentre of Britpop. I might only be nineteen, but I’m wise enough to know that everyone around me is handling fame very, very badly.

My unrequited love, John Kite, has scored an unexpected Number One album, then exploded into a Booze And Drugs Hell ™ – as rockstars do. And my new best friend – the maverick feminist Suzanne Banks, of The Branks – has amazing hair, but writer’s block and a rampant pill problem. So I’ve decided I should become a Fame Doctor. I’m going to use my new monthly column for The Face to write about every ridiculous, surreal, amazing aspect of a million people knowing your name.

But when my two-night-stand with edgy comedian Jerry Sharp goes wrong, people start to know my name for all the wrong reasons. ‘He’s a vampire. He destroys bright young girls. Also, he’s a total dick’ Suzanne warned me. But by that point, I’d already had sex with him. Bad sex.
Now I’m one of the girls he’s trying to destroy.
He needs to be stopped.

But how can one woman stop a bad, famous, powerful man?


MY REVIEW

I’m a big fan of Caitlin Moran, following her on social media & reading her columns, and when I read How to Build a Girl a couple of years ago I really loved it. I’d had one of those days that left me exhausted and emotional and How to Build a Girl somehow put me back together again. It was funny, sad and just so brutally honest and relateable it really resonated with me.

Needless to say when I heard Moran had written a sequel, How to Be Famous, I knew I had to read it. I felt invested in main character Johanna/Dolly and needed to know what was next for her. Unfortunately however, while it has a lot of the same humor, honesty and refreshing uniqueness to it, for me it lost a little of the relateability. It seems to lose the story at times and turn into a series of essays on feminism. When it’s in the moment and Johanna is acting it’s wonderful but there just isn’t enough of this to make a cohesive whole.

The story picks up not long after the end of How to Build a Girl (if you haven’t read it I’m not sure it really matters) with Johanna aka Dolly Wilde living what should be her best life in London, writing for a top music magazine but despite getting to meet and interview the famouses, she still feels like she’s on the outside. Her best friend and long time crush John Kite has just hit the big time and is constantly on tour, she’s not taken seriously at work and her father is having a mid life crisis and using her to relive his youth. Basically she’s miserable but rather than moping about (although there is a bit of that) she decides to take action, to become noticed through her writing. Unfortunately though while her writing does start to garner her attention a past encounter with a certain comedian results in her name on everyone’s lips for the wrong reasons.

In a lot of ways I really love Johanna, she is one of a kind, incredibly self aware and either determined or deluded, I haven’t figured out which. When she decides to do something she commits fully. Who else would decide when the man of their dreams becomes famous that the only solution is to become famous themselves. I love how she fights for what she wants and believes that it will happen. She has no doubts that she’ll get a new, better job if she quits her current one or that the letter she writes will open everyone’s eyes. She challenges and she pushes and it’s brilliant and often hilarious.

On the other side though, she’s also only 19 and despite her intention to become a “sex adventurer” fairly inexperienced and very self conscious about her appearance. This leaves her open to manipulation, wary of confrontation and easy to pressure into doing things she doesn’t really want to do. There were definitely moments when I worried for her or wanted to shout at her to run or stand up for herself.

She does however develop quite nicely over the course of the story. If How To Build a Girl was the story of her growing up and becoming someone new then How to Be Famous is about her realizing and accepting who she is, what’s important and what she’s willing to do. She has to face her fears and deal with her issues.

So far so good, so where did it go wrong for me? I’m afraid to say it was the writing. As I said, I love Caitlin Moran and think she’s a powerful voice for feminism but at times this book wandered away from fiction and into some kind of manifesto. Johanna’s job as a journalist and the letters she writes to John create the opportunity for the inclusion of articles on feminism, fame and fangirls among other things. I probably wouldn’t have minded this but it felt more like Moran writing from her pov rather than Johanna. I also felt like they were a little long-winded and this combined with the other extensive reflections on the 90’s, life in London and the music scene had my attention wandering. I’m sure there must have been a more effective way for the author to get the message across.

There’s also something very odd going on with the tenses, particularly at the start (although I may just have gotten used to it and stopped noticing). I found myself becoming confused as to when the narration was coming from. At times it’s in the moment but at others it’s almost like future Johanna reflecting back. It’s not however consistent enough to really be either so is very jarring.

I feel like I should also add a warning that this is probably not a book for the easily offended as much like the first book there’s lots of swearing and some pretty graphic and realistic sex scenes.

When it is in the moment though it does have some truly magical moments. It is a little bit slow and wandering but I do love the character development and the story. There were moments that made me laugh out loud and others that made me cry.

Overall, it was a little disappointing but I am glad I read it and would recommend if you like unique characters, feminist reads and aren’t too easily offended.

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. This has in no way influenced my review.

Review: One Summer in Paris by Sarah Morgan

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One Summer In Paris
by Sarah Morgan

Yet another wonderful story from one of my favourite authors. Emotional and addictive I very much enjoyed this story of an unlikely friendship.


THE BLURB

One charming bookshop, two unlikely friends, and a summer in Paris that will change their lives forever…

Grace can’t believe it when her husband of twenty-five years announces he doesn’t want to join her on their anniversary trip to Paris – instead, he wants a divorce. Reeling from the shock, Grace makes the bold decision to go on this holiday of a lifetime alone.

Audrey leaves behind heartache of her own when she arrives in Paris. A job in a bookshop is her ticket to freedom, but with no knowledge of the French language, her summer adventure seems doomed to fail. Until she meets Grace, and everything changes…

Living in neighbouring apartments above the bookshop, Grace and Audrey form an unlikely friendship. They came to Paris to find themselves, but finding each other might be the best thing that’s ever happened to them.


MY REVIEW

I love Sarah Morgan’s books, I love Paris and I love stories about friendship so it seemed pretty certain I was going to love this book, and for the most part I did. As always the writing is wonderful, the characters likeable (or at least the ones you’re supposed to like) and it’s very easy to become immersed in both the story and the setting. In fact I became so immersed in it that yet again I devoured the whole thing in an afternoon as I just couldn’t stop reading.

The story itself follows, and is told from the pov of, two very different women, Grace and Audrey. Grace is approaching middle aged and happily married with a teenage daughter who is about the fly the nest when all of a sudden her marriage falls apart and she’s left facing a future on her own. Audrey is a teenager, with a troubled home life who can’t wait to make her escape. They both end up in Paris alone, but a chance encounter results in an unlikely friendship between them as they discover they have more in common than they thought.

I’m not always sure about books told from multiple pov’s (I prefer to stick with one character) but I thought it worked incredibly well in this book. Grace and Audrey have very distinctive voices and I was impressed with how convincingly the author wrote from Audrey’s perspective in particular (although not being a teenager myself I can’t really speak to authenticity). Both characters were likeable and even though I didn’t initially connect with either one they really grew on me and I definitely became emotionally invested in their stories (yep Morgan made me cry again).

The story is a little heavier than many of the author’s previous books and deals with some serious issues making it an emotional read but as well as the tears there are a few laughs too and overall it has quite a hopeful and positive feel to it. There is a little bit of romance for both women but while it is quite sweet it’s very definitely secondary to the friendship that develops between them. They seem like such a mismatched pair but each is exactly what the other needs in their life at that point and watching them grow to trust and support each other was wonderful. It also makes a nice change to read a book about female friendship.

If I had one criticism of this book however it’s that I felt it didn’t make the most of the Paris setting. There are various places mentioned but a lot of the story takes place within the bookshop or in the hotel. I mean I’m not going to complain about a bookshop setting but it would have been nice to see them venture out a little more and to bring in more of the French culture and way of life.

Overall though, this is yet another wonderful story from Morgan.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy of this book. This has in no way influenced my review.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Review: What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

What If It's Us
What If It’s Us
by Becky Albertalli & Adam Silvera

I knew from the very first page I was going to love this book, and I did. It’s just so sweet and funny and wonderful and made me smile so hard (and I’m still smiling). I really hope Albertalli and Silvera team up for another book.


THE BLURB

Arthur is only in New York for the summer, but if Broadway has taught him anything, it’s that the universe can deliver a showstopping romance when you least expect it.

Ben thinks the universe needs to mind its business. If the universe had his back, he wouldn’t be on his way to the post office carrying a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things.

But when Arthur and Ben meet-cute at the post office, what exactly does the universe have in store for them?

Maybe nothing. After all, they get separated.

Maybe everything. After all, they get reunited.

But what if they can’t quite nail a first date . . . or a second first date . . . or a third?

What if Arthur tries too hard to make it work . . . and Ben doesn’t try hard enough?

What if life really isn’t like a Broadway play?

But what if it is?


MY REVIEW

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Maybe more 4.5 stars but what the hell, this book put the biggest smile on my face.

From the very first page I knew I was going to love this book. The pairing of Albertalli and Silvera is just perfect and while you can tell their writing apart, their styles complement each other perfectly.

I am an absolute sucker for YA romances set in New York so there was always a fair chance I was going to love this. It is however the sweetest and funniest romance I’ve read since Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares. I loved the meet-cute at the start, I loved watching Ben and Arthur trying to find each other again and I loved the way their relationship developed. I thought it was wonderful how realistic their relationship was. They have this epic, incredibly romantic start but it’s not all smooth sailing. They each have their own issues and insecurities, they both make mistakes and everything seems to go wrong for them. It keeps you wondering whether they can make it work or if they’re just too different.

Character wise I loved both Ben and Arthur but have to confess of the two it was Arthur who made me the happiest. He’s just so earnest and enthusiastic and gosh darn likeable. I feel like I really need an Arthur in my life, he’s just a little ball of sunshine, but possibly not as the office intern. Ben was a little harder to love, he’s quite negative and closed off, but once he starts to open up he’s kind of adorable too. They really are a great match and I was totally rooting for them to make it.

The secondary characters are also wonderful. Dylan in particular, pretty much stole the book, as he had me laughing in pretty much every scene he was in. (Can he be my best friend?) I also loved the diversity in the characters – Ben is part Puerto Rican, Arthur is Jewish and takes medication for ADHD and Dylan has a heart condition – it’s fantastic to see so much representation in such a natural way.

The writing is as brilliant as you would expect, the pacing is spot on and the story is packed full of feels. I was supposed to be packing to move house and instead I binge read this in a day, I just didn’t want to put it down.

Overall, if you haven’t figured it out, I loved this book and would recommend to anyone looking for a feel good contemporary romance.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an advance copy. All views are my own.

Review: Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Love and Other Words
Love and Other Words
by Christina Lauren

This was a lot different from what I was expecting but I did kind of love it.


THE BLURB

Love, loss, friendship, and the betrayals of the past all collide in this first women’s fiction novel from New York Times and #1 international bestselling author Christina Lauren (Autoboyography, Dating You / Hating You).

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother…only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.


MY REVIEW

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took me a little while to process this book but it really was kind of wonderful. Different to what I was expecting but somehow more.

Told in two separate time lines, one the present and the other 10-15 years earlier, it really drew me in to the lives of Macy and Elliot and the relationship between them. I absolutely adored watching them first become friends at the age of 11, seeing them grow up together and for that friendship to turn into something more. It’s just so sweet and real and perfect. Also, I have to say how much I loved the way the author portrayed the relationship between Macy and her father, the closeness and understanding between them was beautiful to read and I loved how much he tried as a single parent to do what was best for his daughter despite not really understanding her. He’s such a strong and reassuring presence.

The present day I wasn’t so sure about. I found it fascinating watching Elliot and Macy meet again 11 years later and I still adored Elliot but there was something about Macy I couldn’t get. It is deliberate, she’s shut down, unemotional and distant and it does work but makes it difficult to connect with her or understand her actions.

The story itself focuses primarily on their relationship and is a lot more serious than I was expecting but it does flow along quite nicely. The author gets the pacing pretty much spot on and the mixture of past and present is perfect. There is just enough revealed to give you an idea of what happened but still keep you guessing. It is an emotional read in places and I will admit to crying more than once (including in my workplace on one occasion) but it also made me smile and just sigh with the cuteness of it all.

It really is a wonderful story and I did come to really care about the characters. If you’re a fan of CoHo I think you’ll love this.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own

Review: That’s Not What Happened by Kody Keplinger

That's Not What Happened
That’s Not What Happened
by Kody Keplinger

This book about the aftermath of a school shooting deals with some difficult and controversial issues but Keplinger handles it with real sensitivity and a focus not on the shooter (or the why) but on the impact an event like this has on both the survivors and the community as a whole. I loved the messages running through it and also have to applaud Keplinger for the diversity in her characters.


THE BLURB

Six survived to tell the story, but who knows the truth? The next hotly anticipated YA novel from bestselling US sensation Kody Keplinger, author of THE DUFF and RUN

It’s been three years since the Virgil County High School Massacre. Three years since my best friend, Sarah, was killed in a bathroom stall during the mass shooting. Everyone knows Sarah’s story – that she died proclaiming her faith.

But it’s not true.

I know because I was with her when she died. I didn’t say anything then, and people got hurt because of it. Now Sarah’s parents are publishing a book about her, so this might be my last chance to set the record straight . . . but I’m not the only survivor with a story to tell about what did – and didn’t – happen that day.

Except Sarah’s martyrdom is important to a lot of people, people who don’t take kindly to what I’m trying to do. And the more I learn, the less certain I am about what’s right. I don’t know what will be worse: the guilt of staying silent or the consequences of speaking up . . .


MY REVIEW

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There seem to be quite a few books about school shootings at the moment but this is probably the first one I’ve been tempted to read. It’s such a difficult topic and I really didn’t want to read a book that was going to deal with such a heavy or emotionally charged subject. This however appealed to me firstly because of the author but mostly because this book focuses on the survivors and how they’re coping (or not) three years down the line.

Mass shootings and gun control are very topical at the moment and this story does cover a lot of the arguments and some scenes which will be very familiar to anyone who’s watched the news recently. What I liked about it though is rather than necessarily putting across a specific argument or trying to explain the why behind the shooting or how it could have been prevented this looks at the effect of media coverage and all of this arguing on the victims and survivors. News coverage and social media put stories out there instantly and once a particular version of events is out there it often becomes the accepted story. The victims and survivors are often pushed into roles they may not necessarily want, courageous hero, martyr, spokesperson, face of a campaign or if they’re really unlucky, coward or liar. The story becomes twisted to fit the agenda of the various lobbying groups and the truth and more importantly the impact on the survivors and the families of the victims is forgotten.

This book demonstrates very effectively just what it’s like for those to survive this type of ordeal. The story is told from the pov of Lee who was one of six survivors of a mass shooting in her school and was with her best friend Sarah when she was killed. When Sarah’s parents decide to publish a book about their daughter who has become a bit of a martyr as the girl who died for her faith, Lee decides the truth has to come out. She begins collecting the real stories of the survivors and the victims but is she doing it for the right reason and what impact could telling the truth have on her life and the life of those around her.

I thought the author did a wonderful job of portraying what kind of impact this type of ordeal would have on someone and the different ways the survivors have found to cope (or are still struggling). It may be three years later but they’re still grieving, they feel guilty, suffer from flashbacks and panic attacks but with the media attention and the whole community watching them they’re trapped into specific roles.

I loved how this story revealed more about each of the survivors and victims. Lee sets out to show the world that they are more than what happened to them. They were not all heroes and or saints. They were regular people, flaws and all and they were in a terrifying situation. They shouldn’t have to do or be anything and they shouldn’t have to carry the weight or attention of the media or whatever lobbying group. That being said, it also raises the issue of whether it’s okay to put the truth out there when it could upset the families of the victims.

One other thing I have to say I loved about this story was how diverse it was. Lee the main character is on the asexual spectrum (something I don’t think I’ve ever really come across before), there are two characters with physical disabilities, different races represented but also different religious beliefs. I’m not sure I would necessarily say that I particularly loved or connected to any one character but I was invested in their stories.

This really was a brilliantly written story and I loved how sensitive the author was in dealing with such a difficult topic. I do get the impression some serious research has gone into this but if I had one criticism it’s that I wish there was some acknowledgement of this or some details at the back. I was however reading an ARC though so perhaps that will pop up in the final version.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne : I Loved It

How Do You Like Me Now? by Holly Bourne
How Do You Like Me Now?
by Holly Bourne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow..this book!!! I read an ARC of this back in December and I am so happy I can finally start gushing over it.

Have you ever read a book that just speaks to you? This book was that for me. There is so much about it that is so real and so relevant and that I could really relate to. I wanted to just shout “YES!!!!”, it’s so completely and totally spot on. I like to highlight quotes as I read and can honestly say I’ve highlighted half of this book. It’s just so well written.


THE BLURB

‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.’ 

Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?

There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot.

But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.

Her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about marriage, but everyone around her is getting engaged and having babies. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.

When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.

It’s time for Tori to practice what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?

The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.


MY REVIEW

This was my first book from Holly Bourne (and the first adult book she’s written) but it won’t be my last. From the blurb I was expecting the standard chick lit or romcom type book that is all too common but this has so much more depth and realism to it than I ever could have anticipated.

As someone who is single and in their thirties (Edit: I was in my thirties when I read it so it still counts) I could relate to so much of this story. How it seems that at a certain age everyone suddenly starts getting married and having kids and how this creates a barrier between you. How scary the thought of being on your own, or never having children can be and how sometimes it feels like you’re losing at life if you’re not blissfully happy, married and popping out babies. How you can feel judged and inadequate for putting your career first, or for those with kids, for not being the right type of mother.

I don’t really like making comparisons but for me this had echoes of Bridget Jones Diary. It’s less of a romance but while Bridget was made to feel like there must be something wrong with her for being single by the smug marrieds, Tori is made to feel the same for not being a mother. Some of the things said to her are truly awful but I know from personal experience that it does happen. I could completely understand her jealousy and the feeling she had that she was trapped on the wrong side of a wall.

There are a number of other very relevant themes prevalent throughout this story. Our obsession with social media at the expense of enjoying the moment (if there’s no pictures on insta it didn’t happen), the endless quest for validation from a bunch of strangers on the internet, how success is determined by how many likes or comments something gets. It really made me question my own obsession with twitter and instagram. Tori may have driven me nuts with how obsessed she was with presenting the best image of herself, the idea that she has the perfect life and all the answers but really she was just an exaggerated version of a lot of us.

I did love the strong feminist vibe that runs through this book. I may not have loved Tori but I loved how she challenged those claiming to be feminists. One of my favorite moments was when she was on a panel with a man claiming to be a feminist, she may have been drunk but she was hilarious and absolutely spot on.

Her relationship with Tom made for some difficult reading and I absolutely hated it and kept praying she would end it but as the book points out starting over in anything is a much more daunting prospect in your 30s than in your 20s. There’s a definite feeling that you’re locked into the decisions and the path you’re on and just have to make the best of it.

If I had one minor qualm about this book and it is minor it’s that I just couldn’t understand Tom’s behaviour. He was just so horrible and manipulative. I can’t believe it was deliberate but I can’t accept that he didn’t know what he was doing.

I’ve probably made this sound like quite an intense read, dealing with heavy and depressing issues, but it’s not like that at all. There was the odd heartbreaking moment but there were more than a few that were hilariously funny, many of which involved best friend Dee (and often some kind of celebratory event). My personal favorite was a baby shower and some discussion over landing strips, I’m saying no more except that Tori is truly gifted at saying exactly what I would be thinking.

Thank you Holly Bourne for creating such a wonderful book and if you’re still reading after all of my waffling thank you too. If you can’t tell I absolutely loved it and would recommend everyone read this immediately. I kind of hope it’ll encourage women everywhere to maybe be a little less judgmental about how others choose to live their life.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC. As always all views are my own.