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

For Your Consideration

Friday, February 28, 2014

I've never really gotten into the habit of doing a Friday links type post but I often have little topics that I want to talk about or come across things in the week that warrant sharing, so I'll try and do this at least once a month. 


  • I've been quite good this year with the reading. I haven't had too many false starts or tricky reads. Plus, I'm not really doing the Goodreads challenge properly this year so I feel like the pressure is off. I can focus on quality not quantity. Plus, I really want to read more non-fiction and I'm a lot slower reading it. Please, take a gander at my bookish posts this month.
  • Currently reading:
  • As for what's next, well my current, physical to-be-read immediately pile looks like this (below) but I buy a lot of Kindle books on a whim at 1am in the morning, so I try not to pick my next book until I finish my current book


I've been listening to: Bombay Bicycle Club, Clean Bandit, Bastille, Jhene Aiko, and Arctic Monkeys. I was also listening to Red Hot Chili Peppers in the car the other day and forgot how much their songs have been part of my life! It's like muscle memory, a song will come one and I'll start singing the lyrics (and I'm terrible with lyrics) automatically, whilst thinking 'I never knew I knew this song'. What are your muscle memory songs/bands?

I've also been listening to a lot of classical music, particularly the Russian composers such as Rimsky-Korsokov, Borodin, and Rachmaninov thanks to the Winter Olympics and the BEAUTIFUL figure skating, which brought me near to tears far too many times. Oh, and the Russian national anthem - how many times did they play it during the breaks?! Or was that just British TV? Are the BBC in cahoots with the Russians? Somebody call Olivia Pope!

That's Entertainment

  • If you've read anything on this blog before, you'll know I enjoy a good television advert. Recently, I've enjoyed (along with half the country) Three mobile's 'Sing it Kitty'. If you can't watch it through that link, try and find it - it'll make you smile, I promise. McVities has also launched a fun campaign featuring all sorts of cute creatures
  • I finished watching House of Cards. Overall, it was good but not as intriguing as the first season. Nashville is back on UK screens, thank goodness. However, other than those shows, I've been finding it difficult to get into anything else. Most of what I want to watch either isn't available in the UK (New Girl/The Voice USA) or hasn't come back yet (Game of Thrones, Mad Men, Suits). Usually, I don't get in a telly watching slump until the summer hiatus but alas, here I am, marathon watching Four Weddings. Help me out, what are you all watching? 
  • The Oscars are - finally- on Sunday (well, Monday morning for me). Does anyone know exactly why they were pushed back? I know it's to do with the winter olympics but...nobody nominated was competing, right? Just saying...Anyway, I don't stay up for the actual ceremony but I'll watch the red carpet stuff. However, I hope we can watch the ABC Red Carpet Live again over here. Last year, E's coverage was pretty dire. I gather from UK listings that Sky are doing their own red carpet show but I don't know who this correspondent is and I take my red carpet seriously. Plus, where will they be positioned? Lainey says her etalk is second in line behind ABC and ahead of E!, so I'll probably try and check out one of their streams. The Oscars red carpet is no place for amateurs and you only get one chance to watch it live, so I need to know I'm in good hands. As for the actual awards...meh, I'm a bit over it to be honest. I didn't see many of the films, so, may the best player win!

And the rest of it

  • I'm addicted to the scarily accurate Buzzfeed quizzes. Take these and tell me your results (mine are in brackets): Which Scandal Character Are You? (Jake); Which Friends Character Are You? (Mike!); Which Girls Character Are You? (Marnie); What State Do You Actually Belong In? (Virginia)
  • The war on celebrity baby pap pics started by Kristen Bell and her husband. Ummm, I'm kind of a fan of Kristen Bell in that I like Veronica Mars but...I never really wanted to see her baby and I'm guessing the majority of people feel this way, so I don't really get why they came out on the defensive. Anyway, my stance, as a casual gossip blog reader: Like most, I love babies but...I never wanted to see pictures of your kids in my magazines in the first place. I don't want to see pictures of you with your kids outside a supermarket. I don't want to see pictures of YOU outside a supermarket. I want to see you in your latest project. I quite like when you tell me about your favourite films and shows and beauty products but I don't HAVE to know. Basically, just tell me about your project and move on. If you share photos of your kids on social media that's fine - that's your choice and you're sharing not pimping. However, I think the best course of action is let your talent do the talking. What do you think? What will happen to those 'celebrities' whose whole brand is built around their kids such as Jessica Simpson and Jessica Alba. Hmm, I've written about this before, haven't I? 
  • A great link about the figure skating from last week's Go Fug Yourself Fugs and Pieces.
  • Pippa Biddle rethinks and makes good points about volunteering abroad
  • My new favourite stationery brand - Sugar Paper LA

Reading Mutiny Challenge: Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Publisher: Egmont 
Format: Kindle
Rating: 5/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:
I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmf├╝hrer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.
I didn't even consider writing a synopsis for Code Name Verity because I'm petrified of dropping spoilers! Although, it would've taken a lot of explaining to truly give anything away because there are so many twists and turns, which is the book's greatest strength. Usually, as you can see from the Goodreads widget on the right, I read two books a week. One YA and something else. I'll read a few chapters of one in the morning or on the train and a few chapters of the other before bed. With Code Name Verity, I read at least half of it in one sitting because I just couldn't put it down. Absolutely brilliant.

The two main characters were refreshingly original. I don't know, maybe because I don't read too much set during WWII, but I haven't come across characters like these two very often. It's quite hard to talk about them without saying their names and giving away what they do. However, even though Elizabeth Wein states at the end that they are fictional, it is easy to imagine a story like this might have occured during WWII. She even mentions a Horrible Histories episode featuring a similar figure who faced a fate not unlike one of the Code Name Verity characters, which I recalled whilst reading too. If you have never come across Horrible Histories, I would definitely recommend having a look. I've read the books since I was a child (they make great stocking fillers!) and recently enjoyed the television series.

Given the cover illustration, I don't think I'll get shouted at too much for saying the book is about the role women played in WWII. I can't really think of many instances, that I've personally come across, where this viewpoint is portrayed, except maybe Land Girls or The Night Watch by Sarah Waters, which I read when it came out because it was featured in a display at my local bookshop. I haven't seen Enigma but I'm guessing that would be one to watch after reading this book, yes? No? Anyway, I liked learning about the roles these women played and I felt so much admiration for those who did the jobs described in Code Name Verity. I kept thinking, I'm not sure I could ever do what they did but I suppose you'll never know what you're capable of until you're tested.

I'll probably try and seek out some more books like Code Name Verity. It had everything you could ever want in a story - suspense, twists and turns, humour (one character had a delightfully dry wit), and of course, given it was part of the Valentine's Reading Mutiny Challenge, love. The love binding friendships that would not have come about under different circumstances and breaking down class and social barriers; romantic love (to anyone who has read the book, did you picture Jamie Bell for a certain character?!); love for what is right and true; and love for one's country. Code Name Verity is a song to the unnamed, faceless heroes who worked in the shadows of what was already our world's darkest time to restore peace and justice. Lest we forget.

Never Have I Ever - My Life (So Far) Without A Date by Katie Heaney

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Format: Paperback
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:
"I've been single for my entire life. Not one boyfriend. Not one short-term dating situation. Not one person with whom I regularly hung out and kissed on the face."

So begins Katie Heaney's memoir of her years spent looking for love, but never quite finding it. By age 25, equipped with a college degree, a load of friends, and a happy family life, she still has never had a boyfriend ... and she's barely even been on a second date.

Throughout this laugh-out-loud funny book, you will meet Katie's loyal group of girlfriends, including flirtatious and outgoing Rylee, the wild child to Katie's shrinking violet, as well as a whole roster of Katie's ill-fated crushes. And you will get to know Katie herself -- a smart, modern heroine relaying truths about everything from the subtleties of a Facebook message exchange to the fact that "Everybody who works in a coffee shop is at least a little bit hot."

Funny, relatable, and inspiring, this is a memoir for anyone who has ever struggled to find love, but has also had a lot of fun in the process.
I will start out by saying this will not be a standard review because I just cannot speak about this book objectively. The subject matter hits far too close to home to do that.

What I can say is that it is a very candid and heartfelt piece of writing. Never Have I Ever is as much an ode to friendship as to (lack of) dating. Katie managed to make her friendship circle seem like one you want to join immediately. She managed to cover a great deal of time in such a short space but kept it flowing well. The chapters were nicely broken up and she didn't stay on one topic too long. I won't say it's a brave move because that would be playing into the stereotypes of 'normal' 20-something behaviour but I'm glad Katie wrote this book. I did many enthusiastic nods, shouts of 'yaaasss' and even the odd Shirley clap throughout. 

So, why couldn't I write a proper review? Well, how do you review a book when it seems like you could've written it yourself? Not in a 'well, I'm a better storyteller/writer/executer of ideas' kind of way but more like 'bloody hell, this is my life, I'm not the only one'. It was even more accuarate than those Buzzfeed quizzes, and that's no easy feat because they are freakishly on point. Although, I'm pretty sure I'm not a Doug Stamper. Anyway, the title of this book applies to me also and I'm sure there are many of us just blending in with everyone else, nodding and smiling. 

I turned 25 last Friday and I, like Katie, have never been on a proper date or even had a 'short-term' boyfriend. Unlike Katie, I also went to a boys school for part of my schooling (so I think I'm even more of an anomaly?). As far as I know (but it's hard to look at oneself objectively) there's nothing wrong with me. I'm not Kerry Washington gorgeous but I'm not hideous either - trust me, I know you can't really tell from the little picture on the side considering half a book is covering my face, but yeah...just trust me. I am not lacking in self confidence - can't you tell? I did not grow up in a strict, conservative household or area - my parents are very laid back and my home country spawned this wonderful gem, so take that as you will. I've jumped through most of the hoops that most people my age would have encountered by now. I also like to think I've had my fair share of adventures thus far. However, I've just never managed to find someone. Sometimes, it bothers me but most of the time I don't really think about it too much. 

The question most daters and couples would ask is: why? Well, let's use some of Katie's points to take a look. First of all, as Katie quite rightly points out towards the end of the book, there's a difference between serial daters Serial daters do not see anything wrong with settling or giving people they don't really click with - or even like - chances. However, when you've spent most of your life doing as you please, honing your tastebuds, curating a brilliant circle of friends, being ok with going to the cinema alone, and just generally enjoying your own company....why would you want to spend time with someone you're not interested in? I talked about back up plans and settling here with regard to your career. The same applies to this situation I believe. Basically, if you've not been on a date before, then dating for dating's sake just seems absolutely ludicrous. 

Secondly, I don't think dating is the same in the UK as in the US. I don't know for sure but from what I've learnt by way of cultural osmosis, over here it's more about hanging out with friends of friends and making it work that way rather than systematic dating. However, as I said, I don't really know for sure. As for online dating, well, as far as I can see from our adverts it is for older people. Then again, according to one of my friends everyone our age is doing it. So, I'm not sure about that but considering I have quite a hard time writing profile bio's for Twitter and even here (notice there isn't one) I just don't think I could do it - it wouldn't work for me. I don't really like Facebook, I'm a rubbish Tweeter, and I'm just generally pants when it comes to creating an online presence (again, can't you tell?). 

Thirdly, happily married for 25+ years parents, and religious beliefs, give you different perspectives on love. As Katie says, if your parents met at school/college, and haven't really spent much time apart since, then you kind of expect the same thing to happen to you. I will admit, I was a little disappointed no-one cropped up at my HUGE London university. Although I did spend a lot of time in my department, Theology, so that might have played into it. Anyway, this all plays back into the settling thing discussed above. 

Finally, when you spend so much time on your own and not expecting anything, it can be hard to pick up when someone does like you a little more than usual (note to the future Mr Sophia - I probably won't have a clue unless you tell me straight out). There's a great bit towards the end of the book where Katie's best friend Rylee admits she judges whether there might be the possiblity that every guy she interacts with might be into her. It later turned out that nearly all her friends did the same thing. Katie couldn't believe it. Neither could I but I know people do it. 

Anyway, to conclude (because I'm aware I have been waffling/ baring my soul for far too long) I just loved this book. It also helps that the book was endorsed by Rachel Bertsche of MWF Seeking BFF, which I also LOVED because it helped me a lot. I just enjoyed taking a brief jaunt away from the 'lighthouses' and spending time with a fellow 'Bermuda Triangle' (as Katie says). ANyway, here's to hoping both Katie and I (or maybe just me, I don't know what Katie's situation is these days) manage to shun our Bermuda Triangleness for a while so that we might find people who appreciate our awesomensss.

American Fraternity Man by Nathan Holic

Friday, February 21, 2014

Publisher: Beating Windward Press LLC
Format: Kindle Edition
Rating: 4/5

Charles Washington, former president of his fraternity and graduate of Edison University, is on a mission. A mission to save fraternities across the land and restore them to their original purpose of safe spaces promoting brotherhood and good citizenship. However, everything from his vision to his relationships to his very moral fibre is challenged and tested as he travels the country, meeting his brothers - young and old -, and uncovers what is beneath the surface of his beloved fraternity and the Greek system as a whole. 

I didn't really know what to expect when I purchased this book (at a bargain price I might add). I can't even remember how I came across it. Perhaps on a Goodreads list? Anyway, my only encounter with Greek life has been ABC's short lived series Greek. American Fraternity Man is quite different to the TV show, which is very light hearted. There are some complex themes and a depth to this book that I was pleasantly surprised by. 

The story is mainly about that first year after college - the transition to adulthood. At one point, Charles quips “Finally, my life was feeling like an Outlook calendar, not a Facebook page.” (pg 83). We’ve all been there, haven’t we? That point where you suddenly feel like you’ve grown up. Then again, this 'transition' to adulthood rarely takes place within the first year of graduating because it takes more than a year to figure out who you are and where you want to go. I suppose it could be argued we are making this 'transition' constantly but...this isn't the place for that kind of discussion. 

There's a great deal of thought provoking sociological discourse on the 'Millennial Generation' throughout the book. Most prominently is the thought that Millennials are pushing a compassion boom meaning they (we?!) are eschewing high paying, (formerly) high status positions in favour of poorly paid work for non-profits or organisations seeming to want to make the world a better place. Some of the theories suggest this is because Millennials have nothing to prove, per se. There was also an interesting discussion between Charles and a professor of the ‘Millennial Generation’. The professor claimed Millennials want to join every society, team, and fraternity/sorority because they “crave programming” (pg 343) thanks to helicopter parenting. In the end, for me, the debate boiled down to the Millennial Generation being, as the professor says, “A Hero Generation, capable of changing the world” (pg 338) or a directionless, lost generation run out of steam. Burnt out by 25. Unsure of what work is because a 9-5 pushing papers just isn’t fulfilling, is it? And everything else up until that point, every team, club, exam, whatever, has been for a reason - to get into university, to boost your overall grade, to put on your CV for the job...the job that turns out to not seem to have a purpose in the grand scheme of things? Or your supposed grand scheme of things. I don’t know - I’m not a scholar in this subject but that’s how it feels to me and this is my generation so... 

Anyway, back to the book itself and the characters within: Charles was not your typical, flawless hero. He tried too hard and made some dodgy decisions but ultimately he felt like he was doing something he believed in and managed to dredge up enthusiasm from goodness knows where for, what seemed like, a pretty hopeless cause. I really liked Jenn because despite being physically absent throughout most of the story, she was always there in my mind. Perhaps because I’m a female reader and identified with her to a certain extent? As for Charles’s motivational speaker manager, well we could see his true nature from the very beginning, which made it even more tense when Charles figured out the long game. There were many, many supporting characters - after all, Charles had dozens of fraternities to visit - so it was clever to keep them all in check and make sure they were distinct but also keep the same types cropping up in each fraternity - the one’s like Charles, the really fratty types, the always second-in-command types, and so on. 

As I said before, I didn’t know anything about Greek Life other than what I’d seen on Greek, so I cannot say whether or not this was an accurate, authentic depiction. However, the fact that I was a newbie didn’t mean the story was inaccessible to me, which is definitely a positive. Considering everything mentioned about the Millennials, it would be interesting to know if Greek membership is up or down. 

There was some great stuff on social media and how it just seemed to explode. One minute people were tapping away on Livejournal and ranking friends on Myspace (which I forgot about, how mean was that?!) then BOOM Facebook arrives for the masses and Twitter and everything else. Remember how everyone had a Blackberry or a normal phone and then you blinked and suddenly everyone, including your grandma, had an iPhone? Nowadays, we all (supposedly) know what we can and cannot put out there on social media if we want to maintain our integrity but this story points out how difficult it must have been for the graduates during this time. They didn’t know their employers were onto this whole Facebook thing, so a lot of what should have been private probably ended up being seen by people who had no business looking. Charles had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Facebook. How does he keep up with his friends - and his long distant girlfriend - but also remain professional and set apart from the fraternity members he’s lecturing? If the President-to-be has Facebook, why can’t he? In this respect, the book reminded me a bit of Attachments by Rainbow Rowell, where the characters are dealing with the Millennium Bug and emailing at work. 

Overall, I found this story really intriguing (can you tell by how long this review is?!). It was kind of on the long side - maybe some of the visits could’ve been cut out but then I suppose Charles’s unravelling wouldn’t be as believable. A minor complaint either way. This is definitely a read for anyone interested in Greek Life or the Millennial Generation or if you just like a good college based novel. We keep saying we need more of them, don’t we? 

The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Publisher: Penguin UK
Format: Hardback copy from The Reading Room/Penguin
Rating: 4/5

Single mother Jess finds herself caught between a rock and a hard place when she comes across a wad of money belonging to the rude man occupying one of the holiday homes she cleans. Finders keepers, losers weepers, particularly when said money will be going towards Jess's gifted daughter's private school fund. However, what happens when the rude man suddenly finds his conscience and decides to help Jess during her hour of need? Does the end justify the means?

What a wonderful book! A lovely, warm story bursting with charming characters. This is the third book I’ve read by Jojo Moyes and this seems to be her shtick, which is a pretty decent shtick to have if you ask me.

The characters in this novel just jumped off the page. I love that I can always picture Jojo Moyes’ characters from just two sentences of description - and these aren’t usually physical descriptions. Sometimes you can be told every detail about how a character is supposed to look from their asymmetric bob to their Jimmy Choo stilettos but you still can’t picture them - or more importantly, get a feel for them - for love nor money. The supporting cast was very strong too - being a road trip story, there were plenty of eccentric characters dropping hilarious one-liners.

However, with regard to the main characters, Jess was a tour de force. If you liked Louisa from Me Before You, you’ll LOVE Jess. Headstrong, witty, and most importantly, full of love for her family and friends. Speaking of the family, Tanzie and Nicky were refreshingly three dimensional. I feel like the kids in these kinds of novels are always either precocious and highly intelligent - and rarely sound like children - or they’re the hurt, bullied quiet kind, used only as a device to explore ‘issues’. Yes, these tropes form part of Tanzie’s and Nicky’s story in The One Plus One but there’s so much more to them. They are most certainly kind, smart, and important (sorry - had to get that one in). Oh, and I cannot forget Norman - who was responsible for the huge lump that stuck in my throat for the last part of the book. Finally, Ed was not your typical knight in shining armour, which made the story all the better. He made some very silly decisions and followed those up with some rather childish, ‘woe is me’ type behaviour, which made him all the more accessible. Otherwise, he would’ve just been a Mr Darcy type and goodness knows we’ve had enough of those. I suppose it helped that he was a bit geeky too - being a tech entrepreneur and all. I don’t read much ‘chick-lit’ (for want of a better word) but is the tech entrepreneur the new ‘architect’ when it comes to love interests? That would make sense, given the current climate.

A number of themes were explored in The One Plus One, such as good neighbourliness (everybody needs good neighbours), selflessness, belonging, and 21st century blended family life. Oh and finding your other half, obviously. Although, I liked that Jess didn’t need to find her other half or be rescued. However, the most notable themes were: living on the bread line and our very British class system. Given all the debates that have been raging recently about ‘Benefits Street’ and our welfare system, this book couldn’t have been published at a better time. Jess is an example of what so many people are going through on a daily basis. Last year, thanks to research by The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, it was reported that “more working households were living in poverty in the UK...than non-working ones - for the first time...” . Jess had multiple jobs but still struggled due to circumstances far beyond her control. The fact that she was forced to breaking point because she only wanted the best for her children is a scenario we can all empathise with. Her actions as a result of this, and the ethical questions it posed, added depth to what could have been a fluffy, easy read. Ethics were also brought to the forefront with Ed’s story too - business ethics. Also, our class system. Thinking of the ending, if somebody from a different background did what Ed did, would the outcome have been the same?

Overall, this was another excellent work from Jojo Moyes and I look forward to catching up with all of her other books.

New York You're Perfect, Don't Please Don't Change A Thing

Thursday, February 13, 2014

A few things I learnt from my recent trip to New York. 

The Importance of Good Skincare Products
Everyone seems to be experiencing a seriously messed up winter right now and as I'm sure you all know, New York is bloody freezing! Don't get me wrong, England isn't exactly Bermuda so cold weather isn't new to me but I was not one hundred percent prepared for Manhattan masquerading as the Fortress of Solitude. Luckily, these products helped out a little bit.

New York Trip Must Have's

Sephora Is My Kryptonite
I love this shop so, so much. We have nothing like it in the UK. We used to have Sephora, which makes sense being French and all, buddies across the waters (ahem), but for some reason it didn't do very well over here and so the stores closed. We have to make-do with traipsing round to beauty halls in department stores or visiting Boots (like CVS). All well and good if you live in London but for those of us in the suburbs, it can be hard to find products for people with different skin tones. Sephora was a breath of fresh air and I spent way too much money in there. Oh and the staff, particularly at Union Square, were extremely helpful and kind. Luckily, little sis is off to Paris soon so I'll send her a list. 

Motown The Musical
AMAZING! We were lucky enough to get front row seats, so it was like being at our very own personal Motown concert. The actors were all brilliant and their voices were sensational. If you're looking for a Broadway show, please go and see this. 

Friendliness, Service with a Smile and Good Cheer
The last time I went to NYC was during the summer, so it was mainly filled with tourists like myself. This time I got to see working NYC and was expecting the grim, coldness of London on a week day in terms of attitude. Au contraire, mon frere. Everyone was SO NICE. People smiled at us. If I smiled at someone on the tube, they'd probably pull the passenger emergency alarm. My family are Yankophiles, so we cross the Atlantic on a regular basis and are familiar with your happy, helpful salespeople. However, with the cold weather and everything, it just made that bit of a difference to have someone seemingly go out of their way to help you. Yes, it's their job but it still felt nice. Also, we regularly stopped people for directions and they were all very helpful - most noticeably this older lady helping us and some Chinese tourists on the subway, like a tour guide! 

Coats Galore
I suppose the good thing about the cold weather was that it meant people could rock some pretty cool outerwear. From city slickers in Canada Goose, Moncler and Mackage parkas, to cool mum's in full length North Face down jackets, to old ladies in full on fur coats, to hipster Brooklynites in their floor length camel coats. Great stuff. I personally opted for the Tommy Hilfiger Maine down jacket, which was surprisingly warm. 

Obligatory Book Haul
As I was with my friend rather than my family, I didn't do my usual book store tour (also, that meant I didn't have anyone else's suitcase to bear the brunt) but I still came away with a decent stack of books (including The List by Siobhan Vivian FINALLY) from Barnes & Noble Union Square. 

Tube > Subway
However, I must say, the London Underground is organised much better than the subway. How can one have an underground system without proper signage?! Most of the time it was a gamble as to whether we were heading onto the right platform. I understand it's something you learn in time but. like London, NYC is one of the most visited cities on the planet. They could at least put up a few more signs. 

Top of the Rock > Empire State Building
I don't know if it's because I did the Empire State Building in the summer and spent half a day queuing but I much preferred the views from Top of the Rock. The elevator is pretty cool and I couldn't stop hearing the 30 Rock theme in my head (which incidentally is my alarm tone). Next time, I'll definitely do the NBC tour.

OnLocation Tours
We did the Movie & TV tour, which was brilliant because it was in a heated bus and we got to see most of the city. They do let you out at various stops though, such as the firehouse from Ghostbusters and the Friends apartment facade. Oh and they show clips of the relevant shows and movies. They had me at Chuck & Blair at the Empire State Building. 

There's much more I could talk about (like our little trip to Williamsburg) but that will do for now. Have you been to NYC? Do you live there? What are your favourite things? 

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Will Make You Cry

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten Books That Will Make You Cry

1. The Sea of Tranquility by Katja Millay - A tragedy with a truly beautiful love story at its heart. I could talk about this book all day - and I kind of did here - but all I'll say for today is: if you haven't read this yet, please get a copy right now. 

2. Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt - Some books get right in your bones and this was one of them. June and Toby's friendship was heartbreaking and it had a great soundtrack too. 

3. Flat-Out Love/Flat-Out Matt by Jessica Park - Just a really sweet love story with some great tear jerker lines. Think Meredith and Cristina's "you're my person" teary monologues. 

4. Raw Blue by Kirsty Eagar - A tale of release, restoration, and new beginnings. You want such good things for Carly and when they start to happen...well, you shed a little tear. 

5. Summer Series by Jenny Han - These books are very nostalgic and wistful in tone and will make you cry in that 'oh man, it's the end of summer/where has my childhood gone?' kind of way. 

6. Take Me There by Carolee Dean -  A troubled boy looking for answers, dredging up the past in the process. Family drama ensues. The ending of this book will surely make you cry more than a little bit.

7. If I Stay by Gayle Forman - Prepare for tears the whole way through this one. Beautifully written.

8. The Sky Is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson - This is probably my favourite on the list after The Sea of Tranquility. Even though it is about the grieving process, it's like a long exhale.

9. Atonement by Ian McEwan - War stories always produce a few tears but the whole "come back" thing gets me every time. Loved the film too. In fact, I was playing the score the other day and just hearing that sets me off. 

10. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger - Another beautiful love story. I'm sure you've all read and/or seen this one. Oh, the ending *sniff*. The book is much better than the film though (even though I'm a huge Rachel McAdams fan). 

UK YA: What's Up With Jody Barton? by Hayley Long and Paradise by Joanna Nadin

What's Up With Jody Barton by Hayley Long
Synopsis from Goodreads:

Me and my sister are twins. She's Jolene and I'm Jody. We've both got brown hair, we're both left-handed and we both have these weirdly long little toes which make us look like long-toed mutants. But apart from that, I'd say we're fairly different. Well, actually, we're a lot different . . . It's hard enough being one half of the world's least identical twins, without both of you falling for the same guy. Jolene's turned flirting into a fine art, but Jody? Not so much. And as if a twinny love triangle wasn't messy enough . . . there's something nobody knows about Jody Barton. Something BIG. Told with the trademark warmth and laugh-out-loud humour of the much-loved LOTTIE BIGGS books, this is a book that will make you think, with a gobsmacking twist you won't believe.

I LOVED this book so much! It was like a good cup of tea. I can't give too much away because there's a BIG twist halfway through. 

The twins were great characters. In fact, I loved the whole Barton family. I could picture them and hear their voices so vividly. It was nice to read about a working class family from London who loved each other dearly and weren't involved in anything dodgy. 

The dialogue littered with colloquialisms were spot on. I laughed out loud many times at some of the London slang that we used to hear or use as kids. It was nice to have a diverse cast of characters that reflects modern day London. Not your Made in Chelsea London, real, living and breathing and working London. I just think it was nice to read a story set in North West London - I have a soft spot for NW. After East, my roots, NW is the only part of London I'd live in. It was very realistic.

Jody's obsession with Jim Morrison and River Phoenix was adorable. The drawings were a nice addition too and helped further bring the story to life. Extra points for making the Barton's Tottenham fans too - come on you Spurs! 

What's Up With Jody Barton? was a lovely read about a wonderful family and a teenager going through something major. The ending brought a tear to my eye - in a good way. 

Paradise by Joanna Nadin
Synopsis from Goodreads
A move to a small seaside town gives Billie a chance at a new lifand new love -- until the underof the past pulls her toward a shocking secret.
When sixteen-year-old Billie Paradise unexpectedly inherits her grandmother's house, it couldn't come at a better time. With her stepdad abroad and her mom starting to lose it, moving from their cramped London apartment to an old house by the sea seems serendipitous. Maybe Billie, as she navigates the small-town social scene and falls for a certain intriguing older boy, can even find the father she never met. But her mom's remote childhood home, which she left in haste before Billie was born, harbors hints of suspicious long-ago deaths and family secrets. As Billie's story unfolds, flowing back and forth in time and through alternate points of view, it becomes clear that while people may die, the past lives forever.
I always like these kinds of suffocating, small town with a big secret kind of books. In fact, I dare say I wish I'd written Paradise myself. It was a good length and unravelled perfectly.

Billie was a sweet, sympathetic character and I couldn't help but root for her the whole time. I just wanted her to catch a break. She was stuck playing mum but it didn't turn into a Cinderella/'oh woe is me' type story. She just got on with it and tried to do the best for her family, which was admirable. I wish there had been more about Eva and their burgeoning friendship - if that's what it was. Billie's romance did not seem too forced either. It unfurled organically but Joanna Nadin didn't dwell on it too much because it wasn't the most important love story in the book.

The water theme was appropriate as it is definitely a story of staying afloat during life's storms, rebirth, washing away the past, and starting again. The end was heartbreaking, although you kind of see it coming, however it was still a bit of a shock. It was a bit of a punch in the gut for Billie who had already been through so much but the ending had a glimmer of hope.

Overall, two excellent UK YA books that I highly recommend. 

Mini Reviews

Monday, February 3, 2014

Racing Savannah by Miranda Kenneally
I love the Hundred Oaks series and it was nice to see some of the other characters pop up here and there - Parker fans are in for a treat! I like that Miranda Kenneally's novels always focus on a main character with a passion for something because it helps you become absorbed in a world you might not necessarily come across every day - and that's what reading is all about, right?

Savannah's love for everything horse related really came through loud and clear and this was the strongest aspect of the book. Even the horse had personality! However, I wasn't so keen on the romance in this one. I kind of wish it had just been more family orientated because there was so much potential with the dad's story. He was a teen dad and we don't get many stories about teen dad's, do we? I can only think of Where the Stars Still Shine off the top of my head...let me know if you can think of some others. Then again, I suppose people want their swoon so Miranda Kenneally had to write it this way. Savannah's friendship with Rory was nice and felt genuine too. Overall, this wasn't my favourite Hundred Oaks book but definitely worth a read if you enjoy the series. If you've never read a Hundred Oaks, I'd suggest starting with Stealing Parker or Things I Can't Forget

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty
This seemed to be the commuter book of choice over the autumn/winter stretch, so when I felt the urge to read an 'adult' book, I quickly purchased this one. Must keep up with the Jones' after all.

I enjoyed that the novel was told from different perspectives. Each of the women's voices were distinct and it felt like they had their story to tell, which might sound obvious but this split narration style isn't always executed well. Sometimes it feels like one person's point of view is just filler. I also think this is the first Aussie 'adult' book I've ever read because I never finished The Slap. I loved Cecilia's unravelling. I don't think that's too much of a spoiler given the book title. Her character could have been extremely annoying but instead her eagerness and busy body nature was endearing and in turn made her a sympathetic character. Overall, a well written novel with a distinctive tone. I'm definitely going to get some of Liane Moriarty's other books. 

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald by Therese Anne Fowler
I LOVED this book. Such an interesting time, such an explosive couple. I didn't know anything about Zelda Fitzgerald before this book, so I feel like I learnt a lot. It was a fast read, full of life and brightness. The ending was very sad but if you know anything about the Fitzgerald's, you know what I mean. I enjoyed their encounters with other prolific artists and authors such as Cole Porter and Ernest Hemingway. The names were great too - Talu and Hadley and Scottie. After reading this one, I'm going to have to take a look at The Paris Wife and Mrs Hemingway

Prep School Confidential by Kara Taylor
For some reason, I just couldn't get into this one. I was disappointed because it has all the components that I usually enjoy - boarding school setting, mystery, preppy kids in fancy clothes. However, I just didn't connect with Anne or the story. I loved the names though - it was refreshing to have a main character in a YA with a traditional name. Remy and Murali were good'uns too.

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
I thought I better try this one out because I see reviews and hear ravings about it around the blogosphere all the time. Although I used to get it mixed up with Shatter Me (I tried to read that one and just couldn't get past the first 20 or so pages. It was very dramatic. Should I persevere? Does it get better?) Anyway, Under the Never Sky was fine. I was quite engrossed in it until about 3/4 way through when they finally get together and it turns into a Jacob/Renesmee imprinting malarky and that's just not my thing. I don't think I'm spoiling anything by saying there's a romance - would you expect anything else from a YA dystopian/fantasy/sci-fi story? There was some great world building though. I'll probably read the next one during the summer.