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

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.