The Clasp by Sloane Crosley These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

This Is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

Monday, August 20, 2012

I have had this book on both my Goodreads to-read shelf and my actual bookshelf for quite a while (thanks to Em). I was prompted to pluck it off the shelf by Laineygossip and I’m glad that I did. I do love a good family dramedy so this book was right up my street and now I cannot think why I took so long to finally pick it up.

When we are first introduced to Judd, he has just lost his father to cancer and his wife to his manager. He has also found out that, apparently, his father’s dying wish was for his family to sit shiva. Over the seven days of mourning, Judd clashes with his mother and siblings (all of whom have their own emotional baggage), reconnects with old friends and flames, and attempts to get over his cheating wife who just will not go away (with good reason). On top of all of this, he tries to work through his grief. The combination of these elements produces a tumultuous yet hilarious, touching, and slightly cringeworthy tale.

I have never read a Jonathan Tropper novel but after reading this I immediately bought the Kindle edition of How To Talk To A Widower . I noted that a few other reviewers lamented his cinematic style of writing but as a film and television addict, I connected with his vivid, dialogue heavy prose. I could picture all of the characters and more importantly, for me anyway, I could hear their voices. Therefore, I am not surprised that a film adaptation is in the works. For what it's worth, I pictured Malin Akerman as Jen so hopefully that’s who she’s playing. I'm not too sure about Zac Efron as, presumably, Phillip. I had a Franco- at least a Franco voice- in that role whilst reading. However, the proof will be in the pudding.

Overall, I think this novel successfully conveyed the message that you never know what is around the corner, so take time to take stock and make good with those who mean the most to you, even though life isn't always what we thought it would be. Schmaltzy but true.

★ ★ ★ ★

This Is Where I’ll Leave You music: 

Penelope Cruz, W Magazine, and Eyebrows

Friday, August 17, 2012

Photographers: Mert Alas and Marcus Piggot; Stylist: Edward Enninful; Makeup: Charlotte Tilburty; Hair: Pablo Iglesias
First of all, this cover is AHMAHZING (in the words of my second favourite Penny). It is my favourite of the September issues and therefore deserves a dedicated post. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased W as it is not always the easiest to come across in my part of the world. However, I am going to hunt this issue down when I head into London next week.

Penelope looks strong, sophisticated and beautiful as always. The general consensus seems to be that it oozes 90's Supermodel and I completely agree. It’s not about the clothes or the makeup (even though they work by being subtly genius), it is all about Penelope. The hair, the steely eyes, the EYEBROWS are all saying ‘Si, I am fabulous, and what?’. When I look at it, I can totally hear that Stella Artois advert.

Now, back to the eyebrows. The other day, whilst fuelling my gossip blog addiction by trawling through Celebitchy, I was drawn to this discussion on Lily Collins’ eyebrows. Now, as someone with an unintentional statement brow, I had never really noticed Lily’s but apparently for some of the pluckers out there it has been an ongoing debate. I think her eyebrows are great! Much more interesting and fashion forward than the purposefully non-existent style, however that is just my own biased opinion. Why should she ‘tame’ her brows? Beauty is wholly subjective so do whatever floats your boat. Can you tell this is a bit of a raw spot for me?

Anyway, sweetie darling Penelope shows all of us full eyebrowed followers of fashion how to work it. Someone in the comments of the Celebitchy post later said (and I am paraphrasing from memory) that they didn’t understand the hoo-ha because bold eyebrows had been a thing in Europe for yonks. As a European, I guess this is true and is the reason why I had never considered the Lily Collins eyebrow debate before. In fact, I think hair in general is treated differently on the continent but that’s a worthwhile debate for another day.

For the time being, enjoy Penelope in all her fierce amazingness.

Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols

Thursday, August 16, 2012

I enjoyed Going Too Far and Forget You, so I guess I am a Jennifer Echols fan. Her books are easy to read with interesting characters and Southern settings, which makes for some fun voice work in my head. Such A Rush was no different and I devoured it in two days.

Leah is a high school senior who has moved from one trailer park to another with her often absent mother. The one constant in her life is her love of planes. After getting a job at the airport next to her trailer park, she is finally taught to fly by her boss and mentor Mr Hall. Unfortunately, Mr Hall passes away suddenly and his twin sons take over the family business. As expected, there is tension galore between the twins and Leah- well with one twin in particular- and she finds herself in compromising situations regularly. That is, until both her and the twins start being real with each other and the truth allows them to begin dealing with their grief properly.

First of all, I appreciated that Leah wasn’t your typical YA heroine. She wasn’t particularly clever, or witty, or rich but she knew what she wanted. I thought Grayson was an interesting character too. The owning up to responsibilities storyline was well drawn out and the writing was good as it was possible to sometimes feel the weight on his shoulders. Alec’s and Molly’s characters were not particularly well fleshed out but Leah and Grayson’s chemistry overshadowed that. Similarly, Mark was probably not needed in the story at all. The ending was a little predictable but then again it was nice to see Leah do something normal for once and get a teenage experience.

Overall, a good read if you like your angsty boy-meets- troubled girl YA with a smidgen of sass. I read this on my Kindle and found the formatting to be fine (much better layout than The Fall).

★ ★ ★ ★

Even though Grayson supposedly listened to obscure indie music, Alec loved country and Molly and Leah talked like they listened to a lot of Pitbull and T-Pain, I actually listened to a lot of power ballads and classic rock on Spotify whilst reading this:
Can't Fight This Feeling-REO Speedwagon
Up Where We Belong- Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler, Maria Kalman (Illustrator)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Word on the streets (that would be YA obsessed avenue) is that Why We Broke Up is a jolly good read, so I was pleased when I came across it at Waterstones Piccadilly. I’m not sure what I was expecting to be honest. I did not enjoy it but I thought it was an awfully good read. I’m still not sure how I am going to translate my feelings into words.

First things first, the presentation of this novel is brilliant. Maria Kalman's artwork is impressive and adds great depth to the moody tone. It is also deceiving. I fell into the trap of forgetting that just because it is a picture book, it doesn’t mean it will be a quick and easy read. It was actually quite dense.

Now, onto the story. Min is on her way over to her newly ex-boyfriend Ed’s house, accompanied by best friend Al. She is writing Ed a letter explaining why they broke up. Min wants closure, Ross and Rachel style. Through a challenging stream of consciousness, Min speaks of how she met Ed, their glory days as a couple, and the great and terrible thing that split them up.

I did not like Min. Skimming the Goodreads reviews, I do not think many people liked Min. I do not think Min was intended to be likeable. She is pretentious, precocious, precious, paranoid and lots of other ‘p’ words. She is exactly how I am sure most adults view teenagers. She is exactly how most of us behaved as teenagers- if we replace film with music or sport or whatever held our attention back then that made us think we were 'different'- and this is precisely why reading her thoughts is uncomfortable. I think I feel the same way towards Min that Joanie does (and this probably goes for all the other twenty something’s reading this book). I could see it coming, like Joanie, but took a step back, waited for it and shrugged when it happened because Min is on a learning curve. Lots of people have spoken about the floods of tears they were in after reading this novel but I thought it was very frank in a ‘this happened, now grow up and move on’ kind of way. It wasn’t a sob story so much as an everyman’s cautionary tale or life lesson.

I am rambling because I still cannot exactly put into words how I feel about this book. But the fact that I am still thinking about it shows it was provocative (every time I say that word I say it in a Will Ferrell voice). I would give this novel a solid 4/5 and not just because I ended reading it with listening to ‘We Used To Be Friends’ by The Dandy Warhols and it fit PERFECTLY. So, here are my Why We Broke Up musical choices.
★ ★ ★ ★

The Fall by Ryan Quinn

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In theory, this is definitely my kind of book but unfortunately the reality did not meet my expectations. I read this on my Kindle so perhaps some little nuances were lost in digital translation but never mind.

The Fall follows Ian, Haile and Casey through their fall semester as seniors at a small but respected college somewhere in New England. Each character is struggling internally with something- obviously, or else what would be the point of the novel? Haile is a musical prodigy who is trying to get her groove back; Casey is the captain of the football team trying to decide between Med school and the NFL; and Ian who is dealing with coming out to his close friends and family. Tied up in all of this is a quasi murder mystery.

Overall, despite the set-up for an exciting, turbulent ride, the story fell flat. By the end of the novel I was none the wiser as to what any of the characters had achieved or hoped to achieve- with the exception of maybe Ian. In truth, this novel could have just been told from Ian’s perspective. There was enough there to make Ian’s story full and vibrant- what with him being gay and dealing with coming out, his football coach dad and mum moving to be closer to him, his sister and her newfound faith, Jamie and Nato, the list could go on. Haile and Casey could still be his close friends but secondary characters because that is what they felt like despite having their own voices.

Haile did not seem like a real girl to me. Even her friend Eve was more three dimensional and she only featured briefly in the beginning. It was all about her hair or her figure or being an object of desire. There was a possibility to make her character really interesting, after all who doesn’t want to get into the head of a musical prodigy? Yet, there was very little about Haile’s musical life. Perhaps the author Ryan Quinn is not a musician and felt a little hesitant about approaching that territory without conducting a great deal of research, which is fair enough, but this is even more of a reason to have made Haile a secondary character. In fact, she would have sparkled more in the background as part of the love triangle (that turned out not to be a love triangle) and as a close confidante to Ian. I liked Casey’s character but that was about it. Again, his story could have been fleshed out more as there was something to work with- the pressure of leadership, losing a parent, career choices- however, like Haile, he felt more like a cipher.

As for the murder mystery aspect, that should have been cut out or been the whole story. It did not seem to serve much of a purpose if Ryan Quinn wanted a character driven novel.

Overall, I am always on the lookout for a good college based story but I thought The Fall was just ok. Perhaps it needed to be longer like two of my favourite college novels The Art of Fielding and The marriage Plot. In fact, I can’t even think of a song to go with it and that’s rare.
★ ★ ★

In Honor by Jessi Kirby

Monday, August 6, 2012

This book has been on my list for a while- always paired with Saving June. I cannot remember where I found out about it but for some reason I have not been able to get a hold of it until now. Anyway, it was definitely worth the wait.

Honor is due to start her freshman year at UT Austin. However, instead of getting excited about orientation and the like, she is grieving the loss of her big brother, Finn, an US Marine killed in action.

After finally opening Finn’s last letter, which contains a pair of tickets for a Kyra Kelly concert in California and jokey instructions to tell Kyra about him, she sets off on a road trip to fulfil her brother’s unknowingly last wish for her. However, Finn’s BFF Rusty throws a spanner in the works by inviting himself along for the ride and the adventure.

I always enjoy a good road trip book- probably because I have never taken one myself and what are novels for if not to live vicariously through someone else? I love anything to do with Texas, cowboys and football, and just say the word military and I’ll probably get a lump in my throat, so already this novel had me from the start. Honor was a likeable character, heartbreakingly earnest and her grief was quietly present on every page but it was not exploited;  I appreciated that Jessi Kirby did not turn this into a sob-fest. Rusty was very Tim Riggins like in personality but that did not matter too much, his character did the job.

The writing style was very simple, the plot was also uncomplicated but the emotion was there and I found myself reading well into the night to finish it off. The final few chapters, where both Honor and Rusty eventually unravel, were incredibly touching. I appreciated the use of nature and learnt a few bits and pieces along the way (such as the Sedona vortex), and like all the other road trip novels, I found myself wanting to do the activities Honor experienced.

In Honor is one of those books that you probably will not remember forever but it quietly touches the heart in a painfully earnest way. Unfortunately, I am sure Honor’s story is not too uncommon nowadays. I am not sure if the author experienced something like Honor as it felt very real, emotionally speaking, but either way I am glad I finally got a copy of this book. Oh and I definitely want my cowboy boots now! 4/5.

★ ★ ★ ★

A little reading music for In Honor: Carry On My Wayward Son- Kansas

Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple

Sunday, August 5, 2012

My sister and I saw this reviewed in a magazine (I forget which one as we seem to be drowning in glossies these days and thought this looked like an interesting book. So, I was pleased to come across it tucked away in Foyles, Westfield Stratford.

Bernadette Fox is a doting mother, a good wife who does not cook, and a MacArthur winning architect. Oh yes, and a little unhinged. Or is she?

Pieced together through the use of emails, faxes, letters and narration by Balakrishna ‘Bee’ Fox, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? charts the eventual breakdown of a woman living on the brink. Bernadette’s unravelling is triggered by the preparation for a trip to Antarctica, and she caves under the pressure of suburban life, disappearing in what can only be seen as an attempt to rediscover herself and her passion. It is a hectic read with virtual assistants, TED talks and the FBI thrown in amongst discourse on whether or not our addiction to technology is stifling our ability to connect with one another in real life.

I very much liked Maria Semple’s lively style. I definitely connected with the erratic and eccentric prose and loved Bernadette’s blistering rants. Although it was the sweet but precious Bee’s story, the supporting characters were brilliant and complex what with: Audrey the ‘gnat’; Soo-Lin the ‘victim’; and Elgin the ‘great’. Also, the settings were important: Seattle and it’s tech mecca status contrasted with the ‘Seattle Freeze’; Choate and the Eastern ideals of money, status and education, tied to Bernadette and Elgin one of whom is still trying to break free from these confines; and LA and the freedom and madness new money can buy. Finally, there was Antarctica and the symbolic Drake Passage and the Emperor Penguin. I am sure most people these days know about the daddy penguin keeping the baby penguin safe until the mummy penguin returns.

Finally, and most importantly, the novel explores the life of The Artist and the need to constantly create. Elgin vs. Bernadette. Microsoft and the corporate rigidity masked by candy machines and enthusiastic staff vs. the chaos and passion of those who truly walk to the beat of their own drum. Also, the uniquely modern question of how to balance being a mother and wife with the need to pursue one’s goals.

Ultimately, Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is about a woman trying to get back on track but in the process disrupts the lives of her family and those around her, forcing each of them to face who they truly are. It took a while to get through this novel (although it is not terribly long) but I was wonderfully entertained and definitely impressed. 
★ ★ ★ ★