The Miniaturist – Jesse Burton

‘What are we all chasing? Nella wonders. To live, of course. To be unbound from the invisible ropes that Johannes spoke of in his study. Or to be happy in them at least.’

Where do I start? I may or may not have found my favorite book of 2015 and it’s only February! The Miniaturist follows the life of Petronella Oortman who marries into the Brandt family. Her husband is a mystery, a man she has met only once and upon arriving at his home, he is nowhere to be seen. Marin, his sister is there to greet her reluctantly along side her servants Otto and Cornelia. The story is one of how society binds us to a norm, a norm which we must follow for fear of being shunned. Johannes, Nella’s new husband is an embodiment of what can happen to someone when they are refused a life they most certainly deserve. A life of being yourself, of being able to speak and act in a way that feels best for you. I felt that the premise of the book was summerised quite well in the quote above.

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What struck me the most was the writing style and how it perfectly matched the tone of the age in which it was set (it did so for me, at least). Whilst the story was published in 2014, Burton completely encapsulates the 1600’s and the troubles people endured. Johannes breaks the mold and unfortunatly is punished for it. Nella is awed by his reluctance to conform:

‘she remembers telling Johannes in his study how much he fascinated her. Looking at him now, those words hold true. His conversation and knowledge, his dry accommodation of the world’s hypocracies, his desire to be what he is. He lifts his hand to the candlelight, and the strong, hard ridges of his fingers are beautiful. How much she wants him to live.’

Picador have done themselves proud with the presentation of this book. There’s something wonderful about a hard back that will always stand superior to the poor paperbacks and e-reader versions. A beautiful book, despite our protestations that we’re buying for the content, will always sway us to pulling it from the shelf in a book shop. I always love it when publishers make the effort with the presentation of a novel, and this book is an absolute gem on my bookshelf!

10/10 gold stars all round!!!!

That’s it from me! xxx

Bill Bryson – One Summer: America 1927

So, for my New Year resolution I decided to read 50 books in 2015. I’m 4 books in so far, these include Paper Aeroplanes and Northanger Abby. I recently finished One Summer (and shamefully the last of the Harry Potter Series (which needs no review haha). Bill Bryson has been an author I’ve been interested in reading after seeingMade In America on my Mam and Dad’s book shelf as a kid, but never got round to it. So, One Summer, at a wonderful 600 odd pages was a huge dive for me. Apart from the daunting length of his book, and the niggling thought in the back of my mind that I don’t really know how I’ll fair with a Non-fiction book, I thoroughly enjoyed the journey through 1920’s America.

America is a country and a culture I’ve always been fascinated by, and rightly so having learned of the absolute feats completed during the 20’s. Aviation was changed forever, Baseball was dominated by Babe Ruth and Boxing was made into a mainstream sport. Not only that, Prohibition was in full swing and the government was full of men who didn’t really know what they were doing. On that matter though, who does know what they’re doing?

Bill has me hooked on his writing, Notes from a Small Country is in the post and I can’t wait to read about his time in the UK having lived here for 20 years! Maybe I should buy Made in America too, it would make sense, right?

Paper Aeroplanes – Dawn O’Porter

This is Dawn O’Porters first novel following a rather successful career as documentary Journalist. I love Dawn, from her happy face to her amazing hair! I also love her reporting style and was thoroughly looking forward to reading her first novel. I won this from Hot Key Books, to which I am very grateful and read it in one sitting. As I said in my last review, this is really out of the ordinary for me!

Set in 1994, the story follows two 15 year old girls and their journey into adulthood. The first obstacle in that journey is of course Secondary School, and as a girl, I know this is a large one! As 15 year old girls, both Flo and Renee are trying to figure out who they are; they’re either worried about their future or more interested in their love life. The story is told in both Renee and Flo’s perspective and boy do they go through A LOT!? It seems that throughout this story, anything that could go wrong with their lives; does. I mean, these novels are supposed to carry a life lesson and relate to most teenage girls, but by goodness…

We follow Flo and her growth in confidence, the death of her Father and the neglect of her Mother and she has a best friend who could care less. Renee is a misfit, her friends are air heads and fairly superficial. Renee lives with her bereft Grandparents following the death of Renee and her sisters’ mother and the disappearance of their Father. As an old fashioned man, Renees Grandfather refuses to talk about anything and has left Renee’s sister crying out for help when grieving for her Mother.

The book discusses the trials and tribulations of two very unfortunate girls and create two loving characters you just want the best for. I cried; I laughed and will be reading Dawn’s sequal to this, Goose.

9/10 stars!

Northanger Abby – Val McDermid

Val McDermid, a crime writer indulging in the dark and scary has taken on the romantic setting of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abby; a book I shamefully haven’t read simply because I’m not much of a fan of Austen. Despite this fact, my Gran left a package for me at the shop for the new year. Inside said package was a well read copy of McDermids contemporary rendition of a classic. Friday mornings at the shop I volunteer in are rather quiet (for example… no body tends to visit) so for 3 hours I lost myself in Cat Morland’s life and her aim of becoming a romantic heroin as those she has read about.

Having read nothing of Catherine Morland other than McDermids account, I found myself figuring out what 1800’s Gothic tropes our modern day technologies have replaced. Rather than maids bringing through hand written letters, posts are made on Facebook and email and rather than a Gothic Romance being Cat’s life goal, it was Twilight. Now, I read reviews on GoodReads and I have to say, had I read these prior to the book I probably would have left it to the side. The amount of book snobbery and bad reviews it received were awful. I think, despite Catherine being a huge fan of the likes of Twilight, any literary fan supposedly despises, it wasn’t a bad take on her story. Catherine Morland was into her Gothic Romances, books many would have probably turned their noses up at. She was young, and was interested in the things teenagers are interested in. Unfortunately, in this day and age, teenagers are interested in Twilight! So set aside your snobbish ideas about modern, young adult popular literature and just enjoy what is a fabulously written book!

What my main gripe was with Northanger Abby, was the language used by the main characters, Cat, Bella and their friends. It read as a lady attempting to mimic a younger generation with no real attachment to that generation at all; another thing our friends at GoodReads despised. However, if you sit on a bus or tram or metro (what ever public transport you use) and you eavesdrop into a conversation among a group of teenage girls, the use of “totes” and “defs” (totally and definitely for those unsure) is enough to induce a migraine. So as much as we refuse to admit that maybe we are guilty of using shortened slang words, or perhaps we are not as young as we think we are any more; these words are used and it’s a sorry state of affairs indeed.

In all, I must read Austen’s Northanger Abby I suppose, in order to gather better contrasting ideas between the two, however I must say that I gobbled the entire book up in two days. This is usually unheard of as if a book doesn’t grab me, then I would probably set it down and never read it again… or perhaps take many days/weeks to finish it if I have the perseverance!

10/10 gold stars!

I didn’t grow up with Harry Potter…

I grew up with kids reading Harry Potter. That’s fairly normal, my generation were a similar age to Harry as the books were being published, so it was really something they could relate to. I got the first three books (when there were only three books) when I was about 12, and read the first one and thoroughly enjoyed it. I even went to the cinema to see it for my Birthday! Unfortunately, I was just not interested after trying to read The Chamber of Secrets. I don’t know about anyone else, but how infuriating was it?! I got so annoyed at the story of Dobby stopping Ron and Harry from getting to Hogwarts, that I stopped reading!

After throwing down The Chamber of Secrets, I began reading The chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver after receiving a copy of Spirit Walker for Christmas one year. I really loved the characters, the token animals and the tribal feel to the story and became obsessed. I found out that Spirit Walker was actually the second in the series and was loaned the first book by my friend. These books were amazing to me, I loved how certain chapters were told from the protagonist, Torak’s spirit animal, wolf, who was his loyal companion throughout the series.

I don’t think I missed out, I’m on to the final book of the Harry Potter series now, and have been trying so hard to avoid spoilers! I can’t wait to visit fan sites and to get involved in discussions over it; but until I finish, I can’t. The fact I left it so late has perhaps rekindled the love for the series in others. When watching me read through the stories and learning more plot twists and getting excited about them, it probably reminded them of how exciting it was waiting outside WH Smiths for the midnight release of the next book… One friend started reading the books again after I spent half a day fan girling over The Order of the Phoenix and how the film was totally untrue to the book! 😛

There are series for every generation, and Harry Potter was for mine, however I stuck with Michelle Paver and Jacquelyn Wilson books until I finally caved into reading the rest of JK Rowlings fantastic children’s novels when I entered my 20’s. I wonder what people will say they grew up with in another 5 or so years? It’s quite interesting to see how times change, though I think Harry Potter will always be relevant and passed down for years and years to come!

 

That’s it from me!

xx

 

 

 

We Were Liars – E Lockheart

“We are liars. We are beautiful and privileged. We are cracked and broken.”

Oh! The suspense! Do you want a secret, a well to do distinguished family and a bloody big shock? Oh, and a lot of tears and to cancel some plans because you’re going to want to sit and read this until the end!

 

This was a book I thought I’d hate. Again, the hype got to me within the book community and honestly, I really start to loath books that get so many mentions on Booktube and blogs. This book was undoubtedly my favorite book of 2014 and I’m sure if you want to read about the above you’ll agree.

The thing is, you must disregard some basic logic. E. Lockheart herself tells us this story is fable and shouldn’t be taken to literally and I’m fairly comfortable with that. The twist of this story had me in shatters, it’s incredible the way in which the author kept me going, and then threw this … THING … at me at the end, having me reading back through, and finding the clues straight away!

 

This is a story of privilege and examining the way in which the projection of yourself is so important these days. This really had me struggling to care about the protagonist Cady Sinclair and her family.  As I began reading, I remember thinking, “I’m reeeally going to hate this”. I read through exclaiming how pathetic the protagonist, Cady was and how silly she was being about certain events in her life. If I think about it properly, however, Cady’s reactions and attitudes to hard events in her life really evoke strong feelings towards me as a reader.  In reference to her father leaving her as a child, she likens it to being shot through the heart by him as he left her on the front lawn. The thing is, this depiction of how betrayed she felt really grabbed hold of me. I really thought, for a split second she had been shot, and the shock that came with it really helped me relate. Afterwards, though, I laughed and shrugged it off, again thinking “Goodness, how silly.” Terrible, I know, having just learnt her father has left her and her mother!

There is a complete “unrealness” to Cady and her family’s story that creates the idea of the detachment privilege brings. We are told the story from Cady’s point of view, and as such see the world through her eyes. She is recovering from an accident that happened when she was fifteen, in which she suffered amnesia. The story pulls together memories of her idyllic childhood on the island and the events happening around her in real time. The twist at the end comes as much of a realisation to us as readers as it does to the narrator and has an incredible effect on the whole emotion. We are made to overlook Cady as a silly young girl, immersed in privilege and lies and as someone who is completely tragic and we pity her as a character.

 

“There is not even a Scrabble word for how […] I feel.”

GO READ IT IF YOU HAVEN’T!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vivian Versus the Apocalypse – Katie Coyle

I stayed up all night to read this. Honestly, I can’t remember the last time I did this.. Although, The Fault in our Stars came close, hiding under my covers reading through my kindle, so as not to wake up the mister.

Vivian Verses the Apocalypse is a Young adult dystopian fiction, and shares the experience of three unlikely friends, Harp, Peter and Vivian. Their lives are disrupted by the rapture (of all things) taking place during the night. The night of the rapture, Vivian, Harp and Peter are at an ironic “end of the word” party, refusing to follow onto the religious beliefs of their fiends and family.  What they hadn’t expected, was to come home to find two gaping holes in thier parents bedroom ceilings and them nowhere to be found.

The novel was an easy read, it wasn’t too stressful with twists and turns and included a wonderful American road trip. The relationships weren’t forced, despite the three being forced together through their mutual disregard for the God their neighbors and family are so devoted to. The typical YA love story wasn’t instantanious, it grew over time and I found myself routing for the two of them.

 

Definitly want to get into Vivian Versus America some time soon!