Friday, 2 December 2016

Brooklyn Review



Hey fellow bookworms!


I'll admit I've been in a bit of a reading slump recently. As I don't have a full-time job yet, I've been aiming to read one or two books per week. However, it hasn't really worked out. I've gone days without reading any books, which is so unlike me. Okay, so I did have 154 episodes of Gilmore Girls to watch in less than three months, plus I've been attending a number of interviews, but still! Anyway, I finally got round to reading Brooklyn, so here are my thoughts:



Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 252
Source: Goodreads


It is Ireland in the early 1950s and for Eilis Lacey, as for so many young Irish girls, opportunities are scarce. So when her sister arranges for her to emigrate to New York, Eilis knows she must go, leaving behind her family and her home for the first time.

Arriving in a crowded lodging house in Brooklyn, Eilis can only be reminded of what she has sacrificed. She is far from home - and homesick. And just as she takes tentative steps towards friendship, and perhaps something more, Eilis receives news which sends her back to Ireland. There she will be confronted by a terrible dilemma - a devastating choice between two worlds.



My Thoughts



Brooklyn is a quick and simple, yet surprisingly powerful, read. It focuses on a small-town girl called Eilis Lacey, who has lived in Ireland all her life. One day, Eilis is offered the chance to move to the US, and although reluctant at first, she seizes this opportunity, since there is a lack of jobs in Ireland, and even fewer men.

"Eilis had always presumed that she would live in the town all her life, as her mother had done, knowing everyone, having the same friends and neighbors, the same routines in the same streets. She had expected that she would find a job in the town, and then marry someone and give up the job and have children. Now, she felt that she was being singled out for something for which she was not in any way prepared."

After a rocky journey crossing the Atlantic, Eilis finally arrives in Brooklyn. The young woman is greeted by Father Flood, who arranged the whole trip, and is introduced to Mrs Kehoe, who runs the boarding house where Eilis will be staying. Eilis becomes acquainted with her fellow boarder and then begins her new job at a department store. Receiving letters from her sister Rose makes Eilis feel homesick, so she decides to take a course in bookkeeping to occupy herself in her free time. She also ends up falling in love with Tony, a young Italian-American who she meets at a dance. Following a tragedy back at home, Eilis has to choose between moving back to Ireland or starting a new life in America with Tony.

Overall, I really liked Brooklyn, although I do feel that Toibin ended it rather abruptly. Toibin has painted a vivid and realistic picture of immigration and life in Ireland and America during the 1950s. The plot flowed smoothly and there was plenty of romance. Eilis is a likeable protagonist. She is quiet and obedient, and prioritises her family. I found it easy to resonate and sympathise with her, especially when she is homesick at the beginning of the book. It takes a while for Eilis to settle in, and that's understandable - she's never left Ireland before, and she comes to Brooklyn only vaguely knowing Father Flood.

Brooklyn is a delightful and emotional coming-of-age story that will be enjoyed by anyone who loves historical fiction.


Have you read Brooklyn? What are your thoughts?


Serena

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Mini Book Reviews #3

Hey fellow bookworms!


I've been neglecting this blog so much recently and I want to apologise! I haven't really been reading as much as I would like lately since I've been swamped with applying for jobs and going for interviews! I've had a few draft book reviews sitting in my notebook for quite some time now, so since I have some free time today, I thought I'd share them with you. Finally!


1. The Giver

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This book was a little bit different to what I was expecting. However, I still enjoyed it. I find dystopian novels so fascinating and Lois Lowry has done a fantastic job at creating an unstable futuristic world. Unfortunately, I did feel that too much of the book was spent building up the characters and the plot and the action only started near the end. Thus, I would probably give The Giver 6 stars.


2. Sisters Red

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I found this book so gripping and intriguing. I felt really sorry for the two sisters. I also liked the writing - I thought it was really descriptive, e.g. "Their skin glows under the neon lights - amber ebony, cream-like shined metal, flawless and smooth". However, I did think it was unrealistic that the girls weren't in school, and Scarlett was an annoying character. The plot twist was predictable too - I guessed it quite early on. From the blurb, it seems like Sisters Red has such a good premise, but the story could have been so much better.


3. Isla and the Happily Ever After

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I was a bit disappointed by Lola and the Boy Next Door, but fortunately Isla and the Happily Ever After renewed the faith I had in Stephanie Perkins after reading Anna and the French Kiss. Sure, the book is full of clichĂ©s, Isla was completely obsessed with Josh, and the romance was 100% insta-love, but it was a really sweet story and I loved the setting. The ending was just the best. It made me laugh AND cry. I was so happy that Isla got to meet Anna, St Clair, Lola and Cricket. It was such a satisfying ending to the series. Stephanie Perkins definitely has a way of capturing first love and teen crushes. I look forward to reading more books by her.


What book(s) are you reading at the moment? I've just finished reading Brooklyn and I'm planning to read Longbourn next. :)


Serena

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Black Rabbit Hall

Black Rabbit Hall by Eva Chase
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 400
Recommended For: Anyone  who likes Gothic fiction.
Source: Goodreads

One golden family. One fateful summer. Four lives changed forever.

Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family's country estate where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, one stormy evening in 1968, it does.

The idyllic world of the four Alton children is shattered. Fiercely bonded by the tragic events, they grow up fast. But when a glamorous stranger arrives, these loyalties are tested. Forbidden passions simmer. And another catastrophe looms...

Decades later, Lorna and her fiancé wind their way through the countryside searching for a wedding venue. Lorna is drawn to a beautiful crumbling old house she hazily remembers from her childhood, feels a bond she does not understand. When she finds a disturbing message carved into an old oak tree by one of the Alton children, she begins to realise that Black Rabbit Hall's secret history is as dark and tangled as its woods, and that, much like her own past, it must be brought into the light.

A thrilling spiral into the hearts of two women separated by decades but inescapably linked by Black Rabbit Hall. A story of forgotten childhood and broken dreams, secrets and heartache, and the strength of a family's love.



My Thoughts

Black Rabbit Hall is a captivating mystery set in the heart of Cornwall. It follows Lorna, who is about to get married. Having visited Cornwall as a child, Lorna has a strong connection to this part of England, and in particular she is drawn to Pencraw Hall, an old house that is also known as 'Black Rabbit Hall'. Although her soon-to-be husband Jon is wary of Black Rabbit Hall, Lorna is determined to find out more about the building's history, especially after finding a child's name on a tree in the grounds.

The story is told in a dual narrative style, alternating between the time preceding the tragedy the tragedy that haunts Black Rabbit Hall and Lorna's preparations for her wedding. While Lorna's chapters in third person, the others are narrated by Amber, one of the two oldest Alton children. Amber is used to spending her summers in Cornwall with her family (which includes her parents, twin Toby, and younger siblings Barney and Kitty) and has a lovely childhood, until one summer something awful happens, changing her life forever. When Lorna visits Black Rabbit Hall decades later, it is occupied by the elderly Mrs Alton, who is cold-hearted and shuts herself away from the rest of society. Lorna is intrigued by Black Rabbit Hall and tries to persuade Mrs Alton, as well as her maid Dill, to tell her about the children who lived there.

I loved the way in which the story is told. I thought the writing was very vivid and the suspense was maintained throughout the book. I was able to conjure up an image of Black Rabbit Hall in my head. I haven't read many Gothic novels (only Northanger Abbey, Rebecca and Wuthering Heights), but I did like that element of Black Rabbit Hall, for example the decaying house, romance and intense emotion. Black Rabbit Hall is dark and chilling, and will be enjoyed by fans of Daphne du Maurier.


Have you read Black Rabbit Hall? Let me know your thoughts!


Serena

Saturday, 8 October 2016

The Sky Is Everywhere

























 
Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

This remarkable debut is perfect for fans of Sarah Dessen, Deb Caletti, and Francesca Lia Block. Just as much a celebration of love as it is a portrait of loss, Lennie's struggle to sort her own melody out of the noise around her is always honest, often hilarious, and ultimately unforgettable.
  
 
Source: Goodreads
 
 
My Thoughts
 

Teenager Lennie Walker has always been close to her older sister Bailey. When Bailey suddenly passes away, Lennie is devastated and doesn't know what to do. With just her grandmother and uncle, and no actual parents, Lennie turns to Toby, Bailey's boyfriend. Both Lennie and Toby are struck with grief and find comfort in each other. Although it is wrong, a romance soon blossoms between them. They are aware of what they are doing, but grief can make you become irrational. Fortunately, new boy Joe shows up at the right moment, and Lennie realises who she really likes.



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First page


The Sky Is Everywhere is a beautiful novel, full of emotion and heart-warming moments. It deals with grief, love and death. While these topics are common in YA fiction, Jandy Nelson portrays them in a way that really makes you feel for the characters. I could really connect with Lennie, which is surprising as I wasn't really keen on the protagonists Jude and Noah in Jandy's other book, I'll Give You the Sun. While I was shocked that Lennie could betray her sister so easily, I did understand how she was feeling. The romance between Lennie and Toby didn't feel as real as that between Lennie and Joe, and I'm glad it didn't last.


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In my copy of the book, there are letters and poems at the beginning of each chapter (I have included some examples above). These are written by Lennie and addressed to Bailey. I thought they were really sweet and a nice addition to the story. I also loved the writing in The Sky Is Everywhere - it's so poignant and poetic. Since I was disappointed with I'll Give You the Sun, I didn't have very high expectations for The Sky Is Everywhere. However, this book surprised me, and I found myself really enjoying it. I cried several times.


Below are some of my favourite quotes:

  • "My sister will die over and over for the rest of my life. Grief is forever. It doesn't go away; it becomes part of you, step for step, breath for breath. I will never stop grieving for Bailey because I will never stop loving her. That's just how it is. Grief and love are conjoined, you don't get one without the other. All I can do is love her, and love the world, emulate her by living with daring and spirit and joy."
  • "I look into his sorrowless eyes and a door in my heart blows open. And when we kiss, I see that on the other side of that door is the sky."
  • "The dusty sky pours through the window, framing Toby. Joe and I stop a few paces in front of him, all of us now caught in the uncertainty between day and night. The music continues its fiery revolution all around us and there is a girl inside of me that wants to give in to the fanatical beat - she wants to dance wild and free all around the thumping room, but unfortunately that girl's in me, not me. Me would like an invisibility cloak to get the hell out of this mess."
  • "And it's just dawned on me that I might be the author of my own story, but so is everyone else the author of their own stories, and sometimes, like now, there's no overlap."
  • "A flock of hysterically happy birds buts out of my chest and into the world."




Tuesday, 4 October 2016

My Autumn TBR List




Hey fellow bookworms!


This post features the books I am planning to read over the next few months.


1. The Giver

As I write this post, I have actually just finished reading this book. The Giver was on TBR list for so long. I can't believe I hadn't read it before! Especially since I read its sequel Gathering Blue years ago (I had no idea it was a series at the time!). When I found a copy of The Giver at the book exchange at Summer in the City I grabbed it straightaway. I'll be doing a review of this book soon.


2. Before Midnight

I was supposed to read Before Midnight last summer, but other books got in the way, and then I had to work on my dissertation. I had also planned to read it this summer instead, but I couldn't find a copy on Amazon that included free delivery! Hopefully, I'll be able to read it before this year is over as it looks like a good book and I love Cinderella retellings.


3. Miss Peregrine's Home For Peculiar Children

I think I'll have to read this after I watch the film as it is already in cinemas and I don't actually own a copy! It looks like a really fascinating and unusual story, and I've heard plenty of great things about it.


4. Sisters Red

You can never read too many fairy tale retellings, right? Sisters Red focuses on two sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, who are attacked by a werewolf as children and grow up to become wolf hunters. It's based on Little Red Riding Hood and is much darker. I think I'll be reading Sisters Red around Halloween!


5. Brooklyn

My mum recommended this to me so I thought I'd read it before I watch the film (which is fortunately on Netflix).


6. Longbourn

Longbourn is the perfect book for fans of Pride & Prejudice - like me. It focuses on the servants who live 'downstairs' in the Bennet household.


7. Between the Lines

As I loved My Sister's Keeper and Nineteen Minutes, I've been eager to read more books by Jodi Picoult. Between the Lines stood out due to its gorgeous cover and intriguing premise. Jodi Picoult is known for her contemporary adult books, but Between the Lines is different since it is a fantasy aimed at teens.


8. An Abundance Of Katherines

Because I want to read all of John Green's books. An Abundance Of Katherines focuses on a boy called Colin Singleton who always dates girls called Katherine and then gets dumped by them. It sounds silly, but I'm sure I'll enjoy it as John Green is a good writer and I loved his other books.


9. Prep

Since I love books set in boarding schools, it comes as no surprise that I've added Prep to my Autumn TBR list. Prep is a coming-of-age novel about Lee Fiora, a scholarship student at the prestigious Ault, a boarding school in the East Coast of America.


10. The Confectioner's Tale

I've been wanting to read this book since last summer but I haven't really had time - and I haven't even bought a copy yet! I adore the cover and I'm drawn to the fact that it is about a pair of star-crossed lovers.


And if I have time...

11. The Sun Is Also A Star
12. Holding Up the Universe
13. The Muse
14. Fragmented
15. Eligible
16. After You


What books are on your TBR list for this season? Have you read any that I've mentioned?


Serena

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Can You Keep A Secret?

Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 364
Recommended For: Fans of chick-lit and Sophie Kinsella
Source: Goodreads

Emma is like every girl in the world. She has a few little secrets.Secrets from her mother:
1. I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom to Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben Hur.

...From her boyfriend:
2. I'm a size twelve. Not a size eight, like Connor thinks.
3. I've always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken.

...From her colleagues:
4. When Artemis really annoys me, I feed her plant orange juice. (Which is pretty much every day)
5. It was me who jammed the copier that time. In fact, all the times.


...Secrets she wouldn't share with anyone in the world:
6. My G string is hurting me.
7. I faked my Maths GCSE grade on my CV.
8. I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is...

...until she spills them all to a stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger...



My Thoughts

There are some secrets you wouldn't tell anyone, not even your best friend or family. However, during a flight, 20-something-year-old Emma fears the worst and accidently spills all her secrets to the guy sitting next to her. Little does she know that this won't be the last time she sees him...

It is undeniable that Sophie Kinsella writes some of the best chick-lit books, and Can You Keep a Secret? is no exception. It's funny, romantic and light-hearted - and I devoured it in a couple of days. Emma's list of secrets made me laugh out loud, especially "I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is..." and "I've always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken." Some of her other secrets include faking her Maths GCSE on her CV, feeding her annoying colleague's plant orange juice, and lying about her dress size to her boyfriend.

I loved the characterisation in this book. Emma is so relatable, making her the perfect protagonist for this kind of novel. She's clumsy, awkward and makes mistakes, just like the rest of us. Emma is overshadowed by her cousin Kerry, who came to live with her family as a child, following the death of her mother. Emma is stuck in a lowly-paid job and always gets blamed for things, whereas Kerry is spoiled and hugely successful. Unsurprisingly, this makes Emma feel really inferior. Lissy and Gemma, Emma's flatmates, are fantastic supporting characters. I did like Jack, Emma's love interest, but he was a bit of a jerk at some points, especially when he is on TV and does something to hurt Emma (I won't reveal what). However, I could see why Emma is so attracted to him. I mean, he is a multimillionaire.

If you love chick-lit, I'd recommend reading Can You Keep a Secret? It shows that you have to be careful who you tell your secrets to, and if people aren't treating you well, you should let them know. While it is a bit predictable, Can You Keep a Secret? is a fun, quick read that is perfect for taking on holiday and reading on the beach or by the pool.


If you're looking for other books by Sophie Kinsella, why not check out my reviews of Mini Shopaholic and Finding Audrey?


Thanks for reading!


Serena :)

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Mini Book Reviews #2


Hey fellow bookworms!

As I have read quite a lot of books recently, I thought I'd put all the reviews in one post, rather than do an individual one for each.


Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl Review
I watched Me and Earl and the Dying Girl in the cinema last year without having read the book first. However, since I enjoyed the film, I decided to order a copy of the book from Amazon. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is narrated by Greg, a high school senior who is awkward and doesn't really fit into any particular social group. He has one close friend called Earl, who he refers to as his 'co-worker'. Greg and Earl make films in their spare time. At the beginning of the book, Greg's mother comes to him with the news that his classmate Rachel has been diagnosed with leukaemia. Greg knows he should be sympathetic towards Rachel, but he doesn't really know how to act around her since they aren't exactly friends. However, this soon changes...

In Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews takes a serious subject and puts a humorous spin on it. Greg is a realistic character who feels uncomfortable about his body and finds it hard to talk to girls. Rachel is a lovely character too. Earl is the total opposite of Greg but they seem to get on really well. I love the fact that the book is dotted with lists and excerpts of scripts - it adds to the humour. Although Me and Earl and the Dying Girl is primarily aimed towards a teenage audience, its light-hearted tone means that it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.


Easy

easy tammara weber review
Easy is a realistic New Adult book that focuses on a sophomore called Jacqueline. The story opens in the middle of a college party, where Jacqueline is assaulted by a friend of her ex-boyfriend. Fortunately, Jacqueline is rescued by Lucas, a guy from her Economics class. Jacqueline doesn't recognise Lucas, but she soon becomes fascinated with him. When Jacqueline admits that her attacker won't leave her alone, Lucas tries to protect her, even though he is keeping some secrets of his own. Will Jacqueline let these come in the way of her new relationship or will she ignore them?

Easy is a really gripping novel, and I couldn't put it down. Tammara deals with some very dark topics, including rape and stalking, and portrays them so vividly. Jacqueline is a likeable character. She is panicky after the incident, which is understandable, and I felt worried for her. What she went through was horrible. I actually cried at the end. Lucas is an interesting character and his back story is quite intriguing. I loved the chemistry between Jacqueline and Lucas - it was so real and intense.  Overall, Easy is a brilliant book and it's worth reading if you get the chance.


I'll Give You the Sun

I'll Give You the Sun review
I'll Give You the Sun has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars, but they are two completely different books. While I really enjoyed The Fault in Our Stars, it took me a while to get into I'll Give You the Sun, and I couldn't really connect with either of the main characters. To tell you the truth, I actually though that Jude and Noah were quite annoying. This is a shame since the book has received so much praise and I was looking forward to reading it. I did, however, like the cover, and I managed to read right until the end, so it wasn't a complete disaster.














The Girl On the Train

The Girl On the Train
I wasn't actually planning on reading The Girl On the Train, at least not for a while anyway. The premise didn't really interest me that much, and there are so many other books on my TBR list. However, my mum already had a copy and the film is coming out soon, so I thought I might as well read it and see what all the fuss is about. I'm glad I did.

The Girl On the Train is a gripping novel that focuses on a normal woman who takes the train past a couple's house every day, and forms her own story about them. After seeing something shocking in their garden, Rachel realises that the couple are not as perfect as she thought. She also discovers some truths about her own life. With its unexpected twists and turns, The Girl On the Train is the ideal book for anyone who enjoyed Before I Go To Sleep and Safe Haven.








Uglies

Uglies
After finishing All These Things I've Done last year, I'd sworn off reading dystopian books for a while. However, Uglies had caught my eye a few years ago, and when I saw a reduced copy in a charity shop, I knew I had to buy it. Uglies is based on an interesting and unusual concept - when children reach the age of sixteen, they undergo an operation that will make them 'Pretty'. Before that, everyone is 'Ugly'. Tally, the protagonist, is excited about the operation as it means that she will be able to join her best friend Peris in New Pretty Town and live a life of constant parting. It is only after meeting Shay that Tally realises the truth about being pretty.

While Uglies is a decent read, there are many better dystopian books out there. Tally seemed shallow and didn't always make the right decisions. She also betrayed the people close to her, and this stopped her from being a likeable character. The author, Scott Westerfeld, is very critical of humans in the twenty-first century, referring to us as 'Rusties'. This bugged me a bit. I also found that some of the language he uses is quite juvenile. Overall, Uglies wasn't as good as I expected and I don't think that I'll be reading the other books in the series.



What books have you been reading recently? Have you read any of the books I've listed above?


Serena