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

Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Publisher: Twenty7
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
"Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.' Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. 'Are your parents quite disappointed?' Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene. As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ? Sofia Khan is not Obliged is the hilarious and authentic debut novel by Ayisha Malik." 
I absolutely LOVED this book! It was positively bursting with love and laughter. Sofia's voice is definitely up there with Bex from the Shopaholic series and Georgia Nicholson (albeit quite a bit older than the latter). I don't often like to read books where the main character and I share the same name (yes - I'm a bit strange like that but it takes all sorts) but I was intrigued by the blurb and the cover. Plus, it's Sofia with an 'f', so that probably helped. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book.

First of all, this is a great book if you'd like to gain insight into what it means to be a young, British Muslim. I especially found the scenes with Sofia's sister - Maria - dealing with living with her in-laws touching. This book is also great if you want to know about the second generation immigrant experience in general. I'm third generation (my grandparents moved to the UK from the Caribbean as I've spoken about before) and could relate to some of the things Sofia experienced. For example, like a few of us (yes - just a few - you've all seen the diversity stats) working in creative industries, Sofia is a bit of a novelty in her office. Her colleagues don't mean to treat her differently but every now and then, what could be seen as well meaning questioning, only ends up highlighting their differences and turns into a bit of exotification.

Secondly, you'll enjoy this book if you like a good old fashioned marriage plot. Sofia is very much an Elizabeth Bennett. At times, she notes that even when you seem happy enough to be alone this does not seem to be enough to make others happy (especially if those 'others' are in relationships themselves). However, thanks to the central premise - Sofia writing a Muslim dating book - we get lots of anecdotes and hijinks and Mr Wrongs to enjoy. Oh and her Mr Right is awesome!

Finally, there's plenty of family love. Sofia's parents were absolutely hilarious. At one point her mum talks about their cousin coming to London thinking she's all that and it sounded so much like something my gran would say! I also loved how much her friends featured in the books - they really were part of her family and they had quite a few dilemmas to deal with themselves.

I have a fairly long commute, so I'm always hopeful that the book I've chosen to read for the week is a good one. It's always a pleasant surprise when the book is good and funny. It's always good to have a little giggle on the train (although this doesn't usually go down well with fellow commuters. Thankfully I haven't come across anyone like Sofia's Northern line nemesis). Overall, this is a lovely book and I encourage those of you with a love of heartwarming, witty reads to give this one a go. 

The Clasp by Sloane Crosley

Monday, October 26, 2015

Publisher: Random House UK, Cornerstone
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Part comedy of manners, part treasure hunt, the first novel from the writer whom David Sedaris calls "perfectly, relentlessly funny" Kezia, Nathaniel, and Victor are reunited for the extravagant wedding of a college friend. Now at the tail end of their twenties, they arrive completely absorbed in their own lives—Kezia the second-in-command to a madwoman jewelry designer in Manhattan; Nathaniel, the former literary cool kid, selling his wares in Hollywood; and the Eeyore-esque Victor, just fired from a middling search engine. They soon slip back into old roles: Victor loves Kezia. Kezia loves Nathaniel. Nathaniel loves Nathaniel. In the midst of all this semi-merriment, Victor passes out in the mother of the groom’s bedroom. He wakes to her jovially slapping him across the face. Instead of a scolding, she offers Victor a story she’s never even told her son, about a valuable necklace that disappeared during the Nazi occupation of France. And so a madcap adventure is set into motion, one that leads Victor, Kezia, and Nathaniel from Miami to New York and L.A. to Paris and across France, until they converge at the estate of Guy de Maupassant, author of the classic short story "The Necklace." Heartfelt, suspenseful, and told with Sloane Crosley’s inimitable spark and wit, The Clasp is a story of friends struggling to fit together now that their lives haven’t gone as planned, of how to separate the real from the fake. Such a task might be possible when it comes to precious stones, but is far more difficult to pull off with humans.
I really like this book. It has all the elements I usually enjoy - twenty somethings trying to figure stuff out, weddings, snarky wry characters, a decent sprinkling of humour - but it also had a pleasantly surprising bonus...a fast moving plot that was a bit of an adventure!

I've seen The Clasp mentioned in my usual magazines and on a few websites when I've been searching for new reads. Usually it's featured alongside Fates and Furies (which we know I wasn't so keen on) but I was so pleased that The Clasp was enjoyable. For me, the thing that separated the two (other than a decent plot) was the character development.

I think we all know a Victor, Kezia and Nathaniel (perhaps we're even like one - or more - of them) and relatable characters are usually part of the recipe for a successful novel. The perspective jumps from one to the other and I'm pleased to report that all of their voices sounded different (I have read many stories where all of the different points of view blend into one). They were all endearing in certain ways as they searched for both the necklace and their purpose. I liked Kezia in particular - after all, she was flying the flag for the ladies - as she walked her own walk and didn't seem to be terribly preoccupied with finding that special someone, which is something that seems to plague every female character I've come across recently. There's nothing wrong with that at all - especially if you chose to read a romance novel - but sometimes it's nice to hear a different song. She also wasn't overly nice and sweet nor was she terribly unhinged (again, seems like much of what I'm reading these days have one or the other.) Instead, it was nice to have Nathaniel - who, as the writer, is technically the romantic out of them all - go down that path instead. Finally, Victor was the perfect Eeyore of the story. All of the friends and minor characters were also used to great effect.

I didn't read 'The Necklace' in school or university (Theology graduate here) so I wasn't familiar with the story but it's recapped plenty of times throughout the book, so that's not a hindrance if you haven't read it either. I thought using the story within the story worked very well.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Clasp and look forward to reading Sloane Crosley's next work of fiction. 

These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Monday, October 12, 2015

Publisher: Hot Key Books
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 4/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Set in gilded age New York, These Shallow Graves follows the story of Josephine Montfort, an American aristocrat. Jo lives a life of old-money ease. Not much is expected of her other than to look good and marry well. But when her father dies due to an accidental gunshot, the gilding on Jo’s world starts to tarnish. With the help of a handsome and brash reporter, and a young medical student who moonlights in the city morgue, Jo uncovers the truth behind her father’s death and learns that if you’re going to bury the past, you’d better bury it deep.
I was intrigued by the premise of this book but didn't really know what to expect. I haven't read anything by Jennifer Donnelly before but I think I have The Tea Rose somewhere. So, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed These Shallow Graves - I thought it was brilliant! A real adventure though late 1800's New York City.

The plot twists and turns were just right and the suspense was maintained throughout. Often these murder mystery type stories can become a little drawn out but even at almost 500 pages, this book remained interesting. It also didn't feel like 500 pages - I could've done with another 100 pages I think! Even though whilst reading it you kind of know that certain people are not quite what they seem, it's still thrilling when all is revealed. Also, I read a lot of YA contemporary (and 'adult' contemporary - is that the correct classification?!) so it was also refreshing to not have the romance as the plot driver.

Jo was a very well written main character - extremely likeable, which obviously helped make the big reveal even more of a kick in the guy. Her drive and curiosity really helped to maintain the onetime and increased empathy for her situation. Eddie was also wonderfully written. His backstory was interesting too and I liked all of the other characters who were pulled into the story because of him such as Fay and Oscar. There's only so much space in a book but it would've been nice to see more of Jo's mother and her best friend, if only to get more of a sense of the kind of life she was straining against.

Equality was at the heart of the story. Jo wanted the freedom to do what she needed to do - such as get a job, follow her dreams or even just walk down the street without the threat of being branded immoral. I thought the opening of her mind and her eyes - by the likes of Eddie, Fay and her maid - was really well done. It wasn't condescending or patronising. Along with women's rights, there was a great deal about poverty. Once again Jo's eyes were opened to how the other half lived and this stirred up a need to tell the truth and lobby for change within Jo.

Overall, These Shallow Graves was a great read. I think it's classed as YA but I'm sure it could quite happily sit in the general fiction section as well. I really like Jennifer Donnelly's style of writing, so I'll have to try and find The Tea Rose or purchase another one of her books. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who likes a good murder mystery fronted by an extremely likeable and inspiring main character. 

Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Publisher: Macmillan Children's Books
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Recklessly loyal. That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted. Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her. Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him. During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.
I think I've read most - if not all - of Leila Sales' books now. This Song Will Save Your Life will always be my favourite but I'd rate Tonight the Streets Are Ours alongside Past Perfect (although that one might have the edge because of the historical reenactment setting, which was nice and different). I suppose what I'm trying to say is Tonight the Streets Are Ours is a solid YA novel!

One thing I really liked about this book was the main character. Arden was so normal. She wasn't the most popular but neither was she socially challenged (we're past all of that now, right? That's what 21 Jump Street showed anyway...) She wasn't great at any one thing (except for being nice but that's not a talent so much as being a decent human being) but she also wasn't a degenerate. All in all, I liked her as the main character and the eyes through which we experienced this story.

The blog aspect was really interesting and timely. I've never met any of the bloggers I follow in real life but I can imagine for those who have, it can sometimes end up a little bit like Arden's encounter with Peter - especially for those in the lifestyle and fashion arena. Ultimately, this part of the story really highlighted the fact that what people put online is highly curated (I know we hate that word now but it's true!) - no matter how real their posts and photos might seem. This isn't to say people are liars but any time you start a project, you have an end goal. Writing blog posts, taking photos for Instagram, filming clips for Youtube and all of the other mediums I'm too behind to have caught up with yet all takes time, so an agenda needs to be set. Nobody has the time or resources to document every minute of their day for real - we know this from reality television (thank you series finale of The Hills).  So, all of what happens to Arden is important in reiterating this 'not everything is as it seems' message and people do need reminding. It's very easy to fall into the 'oh, woe is me, if only my life were like so and so on Instagram's life' trap.

I liked Arden and Lindsey's friendship. Everyone knows that in every relationship someone is the adored and the other is the adorer (or whatever the terms are). Sometimes it is very obvious, other times you have to look a bit deeper to discern which is which. I like that Arden got enraged because all adorers/givers/protectors are allowed to throw a tantrum every now and then for being under appreciated. However, she soon simmered down and came to terms with the fact that she's Lindsey's person (I will always be grateful to Shonda Rhimes for coming up with that because that one word says so much). It was also nice to see Lindsey maturing and gradually taking responsibility for her actions and even being proactive about certain things, along with truly coming through for Arden when it really counted.

Arden's parents story was quite heavy. I'm sure many relationships end up like theirs at some point and I'd actually quite like to read her mother's story! Again, the mother was the giver in the relationship and just ended up burnt out, so she had to recharge her batteries by fulfilling her dream to live in New York City. Moral of the story? If you're a giver, find your New York City and go there every now and then when you need a bit of a break.

Overall, Tonight the Streets Are Ours is a strong piece of writing. Originally, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads or something like that but I'm finding ratings difficult these days. This book has something timely to say, which is the main point of writing (right?), so I would definitely recommend it to YA lovers. 

Why Not Me? & Fates and Furies

Monday, October 5, 2015

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Mindy Kaling's second book of essays following the hilarious Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

ANY GOOD? If you've got a daughter/goddaughter/cousin/sister/BFF who has recently graduated or is going through the 'who am I?' phase you need to get them this book. It's funny (obviously) but packed with sage advice. More than anything, Why Not Me? will make you respect Mindy Kaling even more. The topics discussed in the essays are honest and real. I'm not sure if I'd say they are completely relatable for most people outside of the entertainment industry but still there are many takeaway points. I enjoyed Mindy's comments on diversity in the industry. I liked that on the one hand she acknowledges that she's an inspiration for many ethnic minority women but on the other hand she just wants to be asked the usual fluff questions when being interviewed like other actresses. I think this is a feeling many people from ethnic minority backgrounds have regardless of position. At the end of the day, things always come back to race. I hope she continues writing these essays as her career progresses. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you're a fan of Mindy and/or need a bit of a pep talk.

(I received this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review)

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Split into two sections - Fates and Furies - this is the story of Lotto and Mathilde and the ups and downs of their marriage.  

ANY GOOD? I still don't know how I feel about this book and I finished it last week. I enjoyed some of the story (mainly the beginning of the fates section and the beginning of the furies section). I liked the fairytale like beginning to Lotto's story - this 'chosen one', child genius lording it about in the Florida swaps. I was quite interested in where the story was going but then he met Mathilde and the whole thing became quite dull. Ultimately, I continued reading in the hope of getting to the point of the story but it never really came. This coupled with the overly flowery language was off putting but I persevered. By the time I reached the final quarter, I was skim reading because I just didn't like what was going on with Mathilde. It felt quite incongruous with the rest of the story and bit too over the top for shock value. I suppose you could loosely say the main takeaway is that you can never really know someone - even your spouse - along with the thought that tragedy and comedy are two sides of the same coin. Still, I wasn't taken with this book all too much.

ADD TO BASKET? It has been on lots of 'must-read' lists and nominated for awards and such like so if you're a little bit curious give it a go. At the very least it will spark discussion.

What's Occurring?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Pages

  • Currently reading Who Do You Love by Jennifer Weiner. So far, so good. 
  • I've just finished Tiny Pretty Things by Sonia Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton. It was a little disappointing. I love ballet books and I was looking forward to a diverse cast (which it was) but the story was a bit too melodramatic for my liking. Things just kept happening to this poor girl but there was no build-up or suspense or tension. Perhaps there were too many points of view (there were three I think) and too little space to truly build the plot. I don't think I'll get the sequel (given the ending, I presume there's a sequel). 
The Soundtrack
  • I feel like I'm at uni again. Foals and The Maccabees both released new albums and they're both brilliant works. I recommend you take a listen right away. 
  • I've been listening to Carrie Underwood a lot too. I love her voice so much - she really tells the story when she sings.
  • I also like Justin Bieber's latest singles as well - yeah I said it. 

The Words
  • I've started working on my 2012 NaNoWriMo piece again just to kill some time. I might try NaNo again this year but I really just don't think I can keep up with that kind of schedule right now. We shall see...

On Screen

  • I missed most of the summer blockbusters (again) but I saw Pitch Perfect 2 (funny) and Fantastic 4 (terrible). Still, there's a lot to see this autumn/winter. Next up is The Martian and then Sicario and later in October, Spectre
  • Summer TV is what you make it really. I watched a lot of WWE including Total Divas and Tough Enough. Jane the Virgin and The Mindy Project have been running all summer over here. I've also watched/started watching UnREAL, which is brilliant for someone like me who loves gossip blogs and reality shows. I also finished Arrow season 2 (finally). Rookie Blue has become a summer staple for us - this season hasn't been that great but I'm in for the long run I guess. 
  • The new television season is upon us. What will you be watching? Of the new stuff, I'm looking forward to: Quantico, The Catch and Heroes Reborn (I might write a longer piece on Heroes actually). As for oldies but goodies: The Amazing Race, Downton Abbey, Empire and loads more. 

Summer Reading Round-up

Monday, September 14, 2015

Well hello again! How have you been - good summer? What have you been reading? I was lucky enough to read some good books this summer - a couple were even great!


China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan
The sequel to Crazy Rich Asians was even crazier! Absolutely hilarious. There were some genius lines in there and the new characters were off the wall. I'd definitely recommend both of them if you're looking for a laugh and a replacement for Gossip Girl.

Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
I seemed to have read a few of these 'shoulda/woulda/coulda/what if' books this year but this was definitely one of the best. Taylor Jenkins Reid has a knack for writing really relatable, normal twenty-somethings and as a twenty-something that kind of writing appeals to me.

Breakfast Served Anytime by Sarah Combs
Soooo special. These types of YA books only come around once or twice a year. I didn't get to read it when it was published last year but I finally got around to it this summer. It's thought provoking and magical.

Techbitch by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza
I loved this! Definitely one for fans of The Devil Wears Prada. It showed the joys and the problems of modern life and work and highlighted that you don't have to ignore or forget the past to move forward.

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Yeah I've only just gotten around to this one, don't judge! Khaled Hosseni is a master storyteller. Lots of writers can write but not all of them can tell a story. I look forward to reading his other books.

What were your standout reads this summer?

If I Could Turn Back Time by Beth Harbison

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Publisher: St Martin's Press
Source: Netgalley
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Thirty-seven year old Ramie Phillips has led a very successful life. She made her fortune and now she hob nobs with the very rich and occasionally the semi-famous, and she enjoys luxuries she only dreamed of as a middle-class kid growing up in Potomac, Maryland. But despite it all, she can't ignore the fact that she isn't necessarily happy. In fact, lately Ramie has begun to feel more than a little empty. On a boat with friends off the Florida coast, she tries to fight her feelings of discontent with steel will and hard liquor. No one even notices as she gets up and goes to the diving board and dives off... Suddenly Ramie is waking up, straining to understand a voice calling in the distance...It's her mother: "Wake up! You're going to be late for school again. I'm not writing a note this time..." Ramie finds herself back on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, with a second chance to see the people she's lost and change the choices she regrets. How did she get back here? Has she gone off the deep end? Is she really back in time? Above all, she'll have to answer the question that no one else can: What it is that she really wants from the past, and for her future?
As I said earlier in the week, I've recently read two books with similar main characters and little gimmicks to differentiate from the crowd. 

The hook for If I Could Turn Back Time was the main character going back in time to her eighteenth birthday. I LOVE 13 Going on 30, 17 Again, Freaky Friday and all those other switcheroo films so as soon as I saw this, I knew I had to read it. Also, the title is my second favourite Cher song (Believe is my favourite. You can't beat a vocoder).

If I Could Turn Back Time was witty and fast paced (but in a good way). It's the type of book that can be devoured in one sitting on the beach or a nice book for the commute. As with Love and Miss Communication, it opened strongly. In fact, it was very funny and I couldn't help but picture (and hear) Elizabeth Banks as Ramie.

Given the premise, this book could've been very predictable (you know - go to prom, get your own back on the mean girls, get the guy etc.) and whilst some of those elements were there, it was handled differently. We all romanticize our teenage years and think we were completely different people back then but one thing Ramie learns is that she's not that different at all and I suppose that's true - you can change little quirks but you really can't change your character. 

I loved all of the characters and especially loved Ramie, which is always good where the main character is concerned! Her parents were really well written - especially her dad, those scenes were very heartfelt - and she only had one best friend, hooray! Her relationship with her then boyfriend was very sweet too and it was nice that she got the chance to appreciate it even more. 

If I could Turn Back Time really made me think and I'm sure it will do the same to you. Would you go back in time if given the chance? What stage in your life would you revisit? I think I would like to go back to being 18 again just so I could appreciate it more. There were lots of quotes that stood out for me in this book - for example, at one point Ramie thinks about all of the selves we lose as we grow older or the fact that once you lose someone close to you, unexpected phone calls produce panic rather than excitement. My only criticism is that I would've liked the alternative reality part of the book to play out a little longer if only to really hammer home the fact that the grass isn't necesarily greener on the other side. 

Overall, I really like this book. It was very funny in places - there was bite to it, which I hadn't expected for some reason - and had some extremely heartfelt moments. I always wanted to read When In Doubt, Add Butter but never managed to get hold of a copy, so I'm glad I can finally say I've read a Beth Harbison book and I'll definitely look into getting some more. 

Love and Miss Communication by Elyssa Friedland

Monday, June 22, 2015

Publisher: William Morrow & Company
Format: Paperback
Rating: 3/5
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Evie Rosen has had enough. She's tired of the partners at her law firm e-mailing her at all hours of the night. The thought of another online date makes her break out in a cold sweat. She's over the clever hashtags and the endless selfies. So when her career hits a surprising roadblock and her heart is crushed by Facebook, Evie decides it's time to put down her smartphone for good. (Beats stowing it in her underwear--she's done that too!) And that's when she discovers a fresh start for real conversations, fewer distractions, and living in the moment, even if the moments are heartbreakingly difficult. Babies are born; marriages teeter; friendships are tested. Evie just may find love and a new direction when she least expects it, but she also learns that just because you unplug your phone doesn't mean you can unplug from life.
Last week I read two very similar books featuring single women in their mid-to-late thirties going through the "last call" panic. Both were entertaining with little gimmicks to separate them from the pack.

Love and Miss Communication's USP was the main character giving up the internet after her constant emailing and Facebooking resulted in dire consequences. I'm sure many people will be grabbed by this premise in this day and age considering the amount of time we spend attached to our smartphones and tablets and whatnot. 

The opening was really strong. I laughed out loud and chucked through at least the first 30-40 pages. However, once Evie gave up the internet, I feel like it started to lose some of it's spark a teensy bit. Although, this could've been down to the fact that Evie herself went through a period of feeling lost and unsure. It can be hard to bring the tone down to something more serious in a romantic comedy without losing the liveliness. It also became a little bit predictable - which I suppose isn't a bad thing when it comes to a good summer read. I don't know, I suppose the grass is always greener but it always seems like in these types of books, the successful professional woman wants to give it all up to become an artist/designer/children's book illustrator.

Still, the characters were nice. Evie was the dutifully ditzy yet highly capable lead that we've all come to expect from rom-coms. The friends were all variations of her but I think it might've been nice if she only had one or two best friends and they were featured more throughout the story. Edward was refreshingly normal for the love interest (I don't think that's a spoiler - you know what you're getting with a book called Love and Miss Communication) but Jack was a bit of a straw man. There wasn't really anything within his character to show why Evie was so hooked on him. The star of the book is most definitely Evie's grandma Bette. Many of the zingy one liners belong to good old Bette.

The main lesson that can be learnt from this book is you can enjoy everything in moderation but maybe it's good to detox sometimes. Evie learnt a lot about herself during her hiatus from the internet and managed to be more present in her family life. However, she also realised that times have changed and in order to keep up with your friendship circle social media is necessary. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing...I like to write these reviews on here (although I haven't been so good at it lately), I go on Facebook to speak to friends and family abroad, and I like to snoop around on Twitter sometimes. However, I don't have Instagram or Snapchat or the other popular apps and I don't feel like I'm missing anything. Perhaps it's an age thing - do you feel you need to be on social media to keep up with friends?

Overall, Love and Miss Communication is a nice read with an interesting hook. If you like a good rom-com be sure to give it a go this summer. 


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Finally taking the plunge and joining Katy Upperman and others with the biweekly 'Currently' posts.


My post holiday glow (which is quickly disappearing thanks to the wind and rain). Anyway, there was a lot to love about where I went. I spent last week and the week before in lovely Florida so I'm still in Disney mode. We usually go to the same place in Orlando and then do some mini trips to Sarasota or Miami. This time we stayed in Orlando the whole time but did some exploring. We fell completely in love with Winter Park! We had dinner at Prato after our boat tour and Bosphorus over Memorial Weekend and went to a great independent bookshop - Writers Block Bookstore. Of course, we did some parks. We had a fun day at Universal Studios and saw the new part of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. We also enjoyed Star Wars Weekend at Hollywood Studio.


The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll. At the point of writing, I've still got a hundred or so pages left but this is definitely one of the best books I've read all year. It might all go pete tong in the end so I'll hold off on recommending it just yet but I'm almost certain I'll be writing a glowing review.

Whilst on holiday, I finished Fall of Giants by Ken Follett, which was rather epic. I also read the oh so cute Sweet Girl by Rachel Hollis, which is the sequel to Party Girl. I really like the tone of those books and I'm desperate to find something similar.


I finally got round to watching Exodus: Gods and Kings on the plane. It was okaaaay. Christian Bale was a really good Moses, which surprised me for some reason but it was a bit too long (and then rushed at the end - he got theTen Commandments pretty quickly!) and some of the changes to the story weren't my cup of tea.

I also watched two book adaptations on the outbound flight - Love Rosie and This Is Where I Leave You - both of which were very good. I loved both books and loved both films, so couldn't ask for more. We also watched Pitch Perfect 2 whilst on holiday. There wasn't as much of a story as the first one but it was much funnier. Also, the other cinema goers were extremely enthusiastic - whooping and singing and laughing loudly - which made all the difference. I wish our cinemas were that lively. After all, it's a collective experience. If you want peace and quiet, you'd watch the film at home, no?

TV wise I didn't watch as much US TV as I wanted to (I planned to take advantage of the Netflix change in location but only got as far as Parenthood season 1, episode 1) because I got hooked on the HGTV channel. I'm currently experiencing withdrawal symptoms and can't help but go around the house thinking 'if we just knocked that wall through there...'


Mumford and Sons (especially Broad-Shouldered Beasts), Django Django, Miranda Lambert, and the Flashlight song from Pitch Perfect. Oh and Save Me by Remy Zero. Smallville was the best.

I've also been on a bit of a John Williams trip as well thanks to all the promotion for Jurrasic World and that iconic theme played so hauntingly at the end of the trailer (although the new film is scored by Michael Giacchino - YESSSSS) plus the Harry Potter and Star Wars music being continually piped through the speakers at the parks.


Well, now that holiday is out the way I don't really have anything to countdown to anymore. I function better if I know things are on the horizon, so I'll have to think about planning some interesting bits and pieces for the summer. On a greater level, I am getting a little bit antsy. I never did the whole gap year/gap yah thing and I wasn't able to do study abroad at university so my feet are itching. Everyone needs a change now and then...


Ok, well I do have two things to look forward to this month. The Space Spectacular concert (featuring the music of John Williams - hurrah!) at the Royal Albert Hall and The Audience (starring Kristin Scott Thomas, who I now have an even softer spot for after learning people mistake her shyness for coldness - lady I know how you feel).


I would love to have spent a few more weeks in Florida. I just really needed the sunshine and could do with a little bit more. Even when it gets hot here, it's not HOT. It's sort of a cold sunshine if that makes sense? Let's put it this way - the last time I wore shorts in England was at a music festival in 2013.


Possibilities. Anything could happen (well so Ellie Goulding says anyway).

What's happening in your world right now? Let me know!

Mini Reviews: The Silkworm, Pepper Jones, The A-Z of You and Me

Monday, May 11, 2015

Time for some reviews, don't you think?

WHAT'S THE DEAL? The second book in the Cormoran Strike series. Cormoran is hired by the wife of an author who frequently goes walkabout. However, this time the wife is convinced something is amiss. Cormoran soon finds himself at the same conclusion after discovering the missing author's latest work, which is a big two finger salute to all of his frenemies in the publishing world. Cormoran and Robin team up again to solve the mystery. 

ANY GOOD? I've been meaning to read this since it was published. Finally, it came down to a reasonable price on iBooks, so I purchased it and dove right in. I loved it as much as the first one - if not more. J.K Rowling just has a gift for creating eccentric and memorable characters and The Silkworm is full of them. I have to say, I didn't guess the culprit until very close to the reveal. It was very well played. I also love that London is very much a character in the novel too. I could picture the city whilst reading it (probably because I was on the train into the city...). It's not the nicest of cities during wintertime and this was captured perfectly. Why didn't they make these into BBC shows instead of The Casual Vacancy? I think there'd be more of an audience for these. Anyway, I can't wait for the next one. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you like a good detective story and enjoyed the first Cormoran Strike novel. 

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Both books follow Pepper Jones, a high school cross country star, as she navigates high school politics and her increasingly difficult to ignore feelings for her best friend. 

ANY GOOD? Who's that girl? What's her name? Is she cool? Is she lame? Oh you're talkin' 'bout whats-her-name? PEPPER ANN...

No, in all seriousness, I really enjoyed these books. Good 'old-fashioned' contemporary YA. There wasn't too much drama or angst - just great friends, a cute romance, and a cool main character. I liked that Pepper was so invested in her cross-country and there was quite a lot of sports action scenes, which is definitely my cup of tea. I also liked that everything was steeped in friendship and enjoying school. Oh and of course Grandma Bunny! 

ADD TO BASKET? If you like books by Miranda Kenneally and Jennifer Echols. 

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Ivo ruminates on the days of his youth and his one true love.

ANY GOOD? This book was quite beautiful. It wasn't what I expected at all - I thought it was going to be a hipster, 500 Days of Summer kind of thing but it really wasn't. I don't really want to give anything away but I will say it'll get into your heart and you might get a little teary. 

ADD TO BASKET? Yes. That's all. 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten All Time Favourite Authors

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week's theme is: Top Ten ALL TIME Favourite Authors (yes - another Kanye of ALL TIME rant list) This is actually hard for me but not in the way it probably is for many of you. I just dip in and out of books that interest me. I have authors that I really like and admire but if I don't fancy the sound of their latest book, I won't read it just because you know? Also, whilst my Goodreads 'read' shelf might suggest I've read a lot by one particular author, it's usually just one series. In order to truly be an all time favourite author, I suppose you'd have to read more than one series. Anyway, I'll give it a go. 

MEG CABOTI read so many of her books between the ages of about 11 and 21 - from Princess Diaries (obviously) to Nicola and the Viscount (I LOVED this one and used to re-read it often) to Queen of Babble. I keep meaning to start the Heather Wells series. Oh and after reading The Princess Diaries, I emailed her from my dad's email (because 11 year olds didn't really have their own accounts back then...) and she REPLIED. So Meg Cabot will always be on my all time favourite authors list. 

JONATHAN TROPPER I just like his style and that the stories are often about a family going through something. My kind of story. Also, the books are often very witty but extremely heartfelt. 

SARA ZARR - Sara Zarr's contemporary YA is always so realistic. I like that she tackles the big questions and issues but doesn't preach at the reader. I really admire and respect her. 

COURTNEY J. SULLIVAN - Again, her stories are often about multiple families and close friends. So far, she has released three books and I loved all three but I have a special place on my shelf reserved for Commencement

RAINBOW ROWELL - How many authors can write outstanding adult AND young adult literature? I haven't found a Rainbow Rowell book that I didn't like (although I wasn't as in love with Eleanor & Park as everyone else but never mind). 

SARAH PEKKANEN - The women in her book are just so real and relatable. Great stories, great characters.

MELINA MARCHETTA - As with Rainbow Rowell, I haven't met a bad Melina Marchetta book as of yet. Plus she wrote the last two seasons (I think?) of one of my favourite television shows of recent times - Dance Academy. That alone is enough to warrant her inclusion on this list.

JENNY HAN - So, I have now read three different series by Jenny Han and I just absolutely love her wistful, nostalgic way of writing. My favourite character is Lara Jean (so far anyway). Jenny Han is also one of the only authors I follow on Twitter and she just seems like a cool person. 

JENNIFER ECHOLS - How many books has this amazing lady written? I feel like I'm always trying to catch up with the new releases. I like that you can go light-hearted with her romantic comedies like The Ex-Games or a bit more serious with something like Going Too Far. However, my favourite will always be The Boys Next Door duo - "calisthenics or what?!" 

SARAH DESSEN - The Queen of Contemporary YA. Do you agree? A bit like with Meg Cabot, I've been reading Sarah Dessen books since I was an early teen. My favourite will always be This Lullaby. In fact, I'm going to re-read it on holiday.

What's Occurring?

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Pages

  • I've actually posted a few reviews on some of my latest reads - do scroll down and take a look. A particular highlight was Party Girl by Rachel Hollis. Don't judge a book by its cover or title - this book is a little gem! 
  • Currently reading Helen of Troy by Margaret George, which I think is great but I'm sure not everyone's cup of tea. I'm also just about finished with Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, which is just brilliant. I'm surprised my head is still attached to my body after all the vigorous nodding I've been doing whilst reading her essays. So much to think and talk about - I'll probably write a review/response when I'm done. Oh and I'm reading More Than This by Jay McLean on Kindle Unlimited (see next point) but it's not really my kind of book. The main character suffered a horrific tragedy and all she can think about is playing games with this guy - kind of unbelievable if you ask me but I haven't finished it yet so maybe things get better?
  • Ok, even though I had a big to-do with Amazon last year after which I swore off Kindle books for a while because I was so angry, I decided to try Kindle Unlimited because Party Girl and the soon-to-be-published sequel are on the list. I'll also re-read Harry Potter from OotP onwards. However, it's too early to say whether or not I'm getting bang for my buck. Or pound. 
  • I missed the Top Ten Tuesday on spring TBR lists, so I need to get that done at some point. Although to be honest, I'm still catching up with some books from last year.

The Soundtrack

[I'll always include a Spotify playlist of everything I'm listening to at the bottom if you care to have a browse]
  • Still listening to Purity Ring! 
  • I've been listening to Miranda Lambert's Platinum album again and Something in the Water by Carrie Underwood, which would've been perfect at our church last Sunday as it was a baptism service.
  • I also really like this track from Lion Babe

The Words
  • I haven't really written anything recently except a couple of blog posts. I like writing reviews but I also want to try and write some more general pieces (as I did last week with the talk on magazines). Keep an eye out and feel free to share your thoughts!

On Screen

  • I actually went to the cinema the other day (I know, I can't quite believe it either!) and saw The DUFF. It was nothing like the book. In fact, it was kind of a remake of She's All That. However, I happen to like She's All That and Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell were adorable and hilarious so all in all it wasn't so bad.
  • Orphan Black season 2 is on Netflix (YESSSSS) so I've been catching up with that and Nashville season 2. 
  • Empire and Jane the Virgin are coming to UK TV in a couple of weeks. Hooray. 
  • Black Girls Rock 2015 aired on BET UK - very inspiring as usual. Now if we could only have something similar over here...
So, what have you been up to?

Do you still read magazines?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

I've been wanting to write about this for a while. Do you still read women's magazines? If yes, why? If no, why not?

I've always read women's magazines but my consumption has increased since I signed up for digital subscriptions. However, the titles and editions I read on a regular basis has changed.

As a child, I regularly flicked through my mum's Hello and OK! magazines. I always preferred Hello and got my introduction to gossip that way. I also used to read Mizz and Bliss, which were 'early teen' magazines but really and truly some of the content was a bit dodgy. I moved on to Elle Girl and then Teen Vogue when it started. I absolutely loved Elle Girl and that helped set the tone for the types of magazine I'd seek out later in life. I wanted to write for them so badly and thought it was brilliantly done so I was shocked when it was shut down. I think there's still a void in print magazine for teen girls (along with other forms of media for teens - I talked about television before- but thankfully publishing is still considering young people) but that's a story for another day.

Eventually, I started on the 'grown up' magazines. I didn't like the pure gossip rag mags like Heat and I didn't like the Cosmopolitan type magazines either. So, I naturally gravitated towards the fashion magazines. I became a regular reader of Marie Claire UK, Elle UK, and In Style UK. However, I started to also pick up the US versions and began to notice a difference between the UK and US/Canadian versions. This difference has become more and more pronounced as the years have progressed, so much so I rarely pick up UK editions these days. This difference is diversity.

In the US magazines, at least I can read the beauty pages and find recommendations for my skin tone or products suitable for my hair. This is rare in the UK magazines, which makes little sense to me as we do have a diverse population. Of course, it's a tiny island but there are women from various ethnic backgrounds who wouldn't mind seeing product recommendations for them or articles about people like them. To be fair, it has gotten a little better - there's often a feature with an ethnic model - but we still have a long way to go. Take the covers for instance (see the table below of the magazines I buy on a fairly regular basis). As you can see, with the exception of Jennifer Lopez and Jessica Alba, the UK magazine covers are pretty much devoid of any colour. Heck, Marie Claire UK doesn't even like people with any other colour hair than blonde by the looks of things. So far this year, all of their covers have featured blonde ladies (the pattern has not changed this month either - January Jones takes front and centre). Can you see why I'm reluctant to part with my money?

Another big difference I've found is the type of article found in each edition. I feel like the US versions are more optimistic and often have good careers advice and profiles of women doing interesting things. I also prefer their beauty sections (as noted above). However, the UK editions often pick up on cool trends earlier and are definitely more on point where the fashion is concerned. So, I suppose it depends what you want from your women's magazines. Do you want a more cultivated, fashion forward magazine - heavy on the pictures, light on the content - or do you want women's stories with a good dose of beauty of advice thrown in?

More recently, I've enjoyed beauty and lifestyle websites such as Into the Gloss, which I think is brilliant at showcasing a broad range of interesting women. 

Overall, I prefer the US magazines but I'll pick up a UK edition if I like the cover star (for example, I was excited for the Elle UK with Rebel Wilson on the cover). I would say I'd love to know what the editors of the UK magazines think of this but I probably don't want to hear the answer considering the Vogue UK editor said black models don't sell covers - then again she also said there's no racism in the industry...

What do you think? What magazines do you buy - if any - or do you prefer online reading? What are your favourite lifestyle blogs and websites? 

Party Girl by Rachel Hollis

Monday, April 6, 2015

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Format: Kindle
Rating: 4/5

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Landon Brinkley’s dreams are all coming true. She’s landed an internship with the fabulous Selah Smith, event planner for the Hollywood elite, taking her from small-town Texas to the bright lights of LA. Landon soon finds herself in a world in which spending a million dollars on an event—even a child’s birthday party—is de rigueur and the whims of celebrity clients are life-and-death matters. At first, the thrill of working on A-list parties and celebrity weddings is enough to get Landon through the seventy-five-hour workweeks and endless abuse at the hands of her mercurial boss. But when the reality of the business reveals itself, she’s forced to make a choice: do whatever it takes to get ahead, or stay true to herself. Drawing on the author’s real-life experiences as an event planner to the stars, Party Girl takes readers on an adventure among Hollywood’s most beautiful—and most outrageous—people, revealing the ugly side of Hollywood’s prettiest parties.
I LOVED this book! I found this whilst trying to find something similar to some of my old favourites such as The Second Assistant and The Devil Wears Prada. The synopsis seemed like it could be a light-hearted, breezy read so I bought it. It was just like the books I used to read except now that I'm in my mid-twenties (ahem or perhaps past it) I could relate to the story much more. Whilst reading this one I was having a bad health week but it cheered me up every time I cracked it open (well as much as you can crack open an e-book) and definitely made the train journey a lot more bearable.

The main thing I loved about Party Girl was the optimism. So much of what I've read recently has been angsty and tortured, so it was just nice to read something laced with happiness. Sure, Landon has her ups and downs as we all do but her outlook on life and her circumstances was refreshing. Landon Brinkley is now one of my favourite characters. The story whizzed along filled with snappy, laugh-out-loud dialogue ("Is Bai Ling even still relevant?") and plenty of millennial (don't like that word but oh well) cultural references.

The romance was unexpected and very cute but not central to the ultimate plot, which was nice. I also really loved the friendship between Landon, Miko, Max and Taylor. It was a great example of how when you move to a new city and start something new you learn to make fast friendships. Just a great example of a group of normal twenty-somethings in a not so normal industry.

Speaking of which, it was nice to have a book focused on event planning, as it seems like that's a buzz career area these days. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who has worked at a small (or should I say 'boutique') media/PR/other types of entertainment company. At one turning point, Landon thinks back to her dad saying "Kid, your integrity is the only thing they can't take away from you, and it's worth a helluvalot more than four bucks." In this modern world where it seems like more and more people want to be part of the entertainment industry, it's definitely something to consider. You have to be really strong and know yourself and hold on to your integrity or else you'll fast find yourself in some questionable situations. Just look at some of these pseudo-reality stars. One thing I've always believed is that nothing good ever comes easily - there's no such thing as a quick fix or a shortcut to success. Landon really embodies this viewpoint.

I can't wait to read the sequel, which is due out next month (yay!) If you love Elle Woods, The Devil Wears Prada, or shows like The Hills and The Rachel Zoe Project, or even just a level headed pretty awesome main character, just go ahead and get your copy now.

We All Looked Up, All Lined Up, Hopeless

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

No, that's not a line from some angsty pop-rock song - I just thought I'd do a quick round up of some of the books I've read recently that have been so-so.

WHAT'S THE DEAL? It's the end of the world as we know it. Four or five (or too many) teenagers try to figure out how to spend the rest of their lives. 

ANY GOOD? I was intrigued by the premise and the cover was interesting, so I was looking forward to reading We All Looked Up. The first chapter was strong. I was drawn into Peter's world quite quickly and I thought it would be a bit like The Beginning of Everything, which I really enjoyed. However, another point of view was introduced and I inwardly groaned. I've grown to dislike YA with alternating points of view because it seems increasingly popular and is hard to do well. So, imagine my dismay when another point of view was added and another (and maybe another - I can't remembers how many altogether). Add to this a host of supporting characters and it just became too much. I understand the author wanted to show different reactions to the event but I didn't feel like they were genuine except for Peter. The story lines became too far fetched and spread to thinly. I really disliked the Andy and Bobo characters and everything that happened as a consequence of them. The ending was very strange but by then I was too exhausted to be terribly bothered. Unfortunately, this book lost me a third of the way through but I kept hoping the spark from the first chapter would return. It didn't. 

ADD TO BASKET? I think many people will love this book. Especially people who like their characters to say yo at the end of everything. Yo. 

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Sky doesn't do relationships but that all changes when she meets the mysterious, broody (aren't they all?) Holder. However, there's more to Holder's broodiness than tattoos and too much Bon Iver. Sky soon finds out more about herself than she bargained for. 

ANY GOOD? Continuing with my quest to find New Adult novels that shatter my preconceived notions*, I decided to try a Colleen Hoover novel. Colleen Hoover is heralded all over the internet but I've always been put off by the price of the Kindle books- they're mid-range for Kindle and I usually only that and above for books I desperately want to read. Still, I took the plunge and picked Hopeless, which I soon discovered is YA but never mind. I liked it! I like Colleen Hoover's style of writing and there was more to the story than the romance - although it is definitely a romance novel. It didn't go exactly where I thought it was going and dealt with some very heavy issues in a really well thought out way. I will try another Colleen Hoover book at some point - hooray!

ADD TO BASKET? If you like books by authors such as Sarah Dessen and Jennifer Echols (two of my favourites!)

WHAT'S THE DEAL? Dallas 'Julie Taylor' Cole is the daughter of a college football coach. Dallas hates football players because she was burned by one in high school (no, not literally). However, of course one cannot judge all football players by the same yard stick, and she finds herself enamoured with one whose name I cannot remember but let's call him Tim Riggins.  

ANY GOOD? Continuing with my adventures into NA, this was more along the lines of what I expect from NA. I liked it in the beginning, the main character was witty and I even got past her name being Dallas and the fact that she's a dancer (I told you they're all dancers or artists!) However, halfway through, she turned into someone completely different. I didn't get why she was so emotional all the time and I really didn't get why she didn't like her dad. Dallas was too much of a Debbie Downer for me (which was highlighted more because I was reading Party Girl and that main character is like a ball of sunshine). The tone reminded me of Easy by Tammara Webber, which I didn't really like. I prefer my college books to be light hearted, such as Secret Society Girl or the Bowler University series. 

ADD TO BASKET? If you like general college romance filled with will they/won't they, go for it.