Book Review: It Only Happens in the Movies

Every once in a while, you read a book which really resonates with you. This happened with me when I finally got around to reading It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne. It’s been on my TBR for a while now and after reading a lot of fantasy lately which was just a bit too dark and filled with death for my current frame of mind, I decided it was time to seek out some contemporary romance. What I was looking for was something light and fluffy to make me feel better. What I found was something much more meaningful than I expected.

Holly Bourne is, of course, a huge presence in contemporary YA. Her Spinster Club series is hailed as essential reading for today’s young women for it’s strong themes of female-empowerment and friendship. I don’t know why, then, I expected It Only Happens in the Movies, to be cute and fluffy. Maybe it was the bright cover or the blurb on the back which referenced romance films and falling in love. Maybe that is intentional. Maybe the marketing team wanted to mirror the false image of love given off by romance movies by making people think this was going to be a cutesy love story.

It Only Happens in the Movies IS a love story, but this is no rose-tinted-glasses, Hollywood take on love. Oh no. This book is so grounded in reality and that is what I found so refreshing. Bourne doesn’t shy away from talking about the important topics – dysfunctional families, body image and insecurity, sex. Many books reference these topics but they tend to gloss over them or make them melodramatic. Bourne doesn’t do that. She paints a stark and real picture of what these issues are like and how they can affect people. Continue reading “Book Review: It Only Happens in the Movies”

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Book Review: Hero At The Fall

Certain writers have the ability to captivated you within the first few minutes of picking up their book. Alwyn Hamilton is one such author. I massively enjoyed the first two books in her Rebel series, Rebel of the Sands and Traitor to the Throne, and I was super excited for the third and final installment to be released at the beginning of February.

Hero at the Fall sees Amani and what’s left of the Rebellion trying desperately to recover their friends and finally win the fight to oust the corrupt Sultan and get Ahmed on the throne. When we rejoin Amani she has been forced to step into the role of temporary leader of the Rebellion. It is a position she doesn’t feel she deserves, but with Ahmed and Shazad both captured by the Sultan, she has no choice but to try to regroup and come up with a new plan for victory.

There are over 500 pages to this book and each one is packed with action. My heart was literally in my mouth at some points. Over the course of the previous two books, the reader has grown to love certain characters and it’s safe to say that hearts will be broken reading Hero at the Fall. Put it this way: your emotions will be put through the wringer with this book. Continue reading “Book Review: Hero At The Fall”

Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index

Over the summer I have read a fair bit of contemporary YA. One that has particularly resonated with me is Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index by Julie Israel.

To be honest, I don’t normally read books which deal with grief. It has been a subject that I have shied away from in the past, always thinking it was too depressing to read about. Having experienced the loss of my mum in January, I now know first-hand what it is like to grieve and so I decided it was high time I started reading books that deal with this theme. Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index follows Juniper in the months after her sister’s death and what really drew me to it was the idea of the happiness index cards.

The Christmas before she died, Juniper’s sister, Camilla, gave her a set of index cards and told her to keep a happiness index. Each day Juniper writes down her happiness score out of 10 and lists what happened to her that day followed by a + or – sign. Since Camilla was killed in a tragic car accident, Juniper has been using the cards to help her get through her grief. Then one day she forgets to fill one out and then it goes missing. Can Juniper find the card before someone else does and discovers a secret she carries about her sister. Continue reading “Book Review: Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index”

Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi

Ever since I was seventeen I have been interested in Indian culture. In my uni days I started watching Hindi movies and TV serials and tried to learn how to cook Indian food from scratch. While my Hindi might be patchy at best, I still enjoy anything related to Indian culture, so when I heard about When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon, I knew I had to read it.

When Dimple Met Rishi is contemporary YA, set in America. Our protagonist is seventeen-year-old Dimple Shah, born in America to Indian parents and struggling to juggle their expectations with her own aspirations for her future. Dimple dreams of going to Insomnia Con, an annual summer programme run by SFSU where participants have the chance to build and pitch their own app. This year’s prize is the opportunity to share their idea with Jenny Lindt, who just happens to be Dimple’s idol.

Dimple doesn’t think her parents will allow her to go, however she is willing to try to convince them. Imagine her surprise when they not only agree but seem totally unfazed by the six week programme. Have they finally come round to Dimple’s way of thinking?

Meanwhile, Rishi Patel is a traditional son hoping to make his parents proud. Like Dimple, he was born in America, however he feels a strong connection to his Indian heritage. Rishi secretly enjoys drawing and creating his own comic book characters. Knowing his parents want him to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a computer engineer, he is trying to suppress his love of art and focus on fulfilling his parents wishes. He has asked them to find him a potential bride, and as luck would have it they are old friends of the Shahs. Rishi is happy to go to Insomnia Con to meet Dimple, thinking she has agreed to the match… Continue reading “Book Review: When Dimple Met Rishi”

Book Review: Lord of Shadows

Cassandra Clare is one of my favourite authors. Her books are always compelling with vivid characters and settings. I was therefore extremely excited for the publication of her second book in The Dark Artifices series, Lord of Shadows, which was back in May.

One of the great things about Cassandra Clare’s writing is the universe she has created. I love how each series is connected although they are all set in different time periods. Lord of Shadows opens with Jace and Clary, of The Mortal Instruments fame, visiting the Los Angeles institute. It is little cameos like this that make these books so special and it was great to see what Jace and Clary are up to now. They are not the only characters from other series to make a cameo – Alec and Magnus also appear.

The core characters of Lord of Shadows are, of course, the Blackthorns – Julien and his brothers and sisters. An adopted member of the family, Emma Carstairs, is our heroine and along with Julien they are trying to figure out how to keep the family together and how to navigate their complicated feelings for one another. Julien and Emma are parabatai, and falling in love is forbidden. As we saw in Lady Midnight, the two have developed feelings for each other and much of the book is devoted to their struggle with these emotions. Continue reading “Book Review: Lord of Shadows”

Book Review: Strange The Dreamer

Every now and then a book comes along that is written so beautifully it is really a piece of art as well as literature. Okay, so there are probably many out there who would argue that all literature is art, but there are some books which have been crafted to such a degree that you want to savour each word. That was certainly how I felt while reading Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

Having read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy I knew to expect something epic with vivid characters and a clever and unique plot. With Strange The Dreamer, she has gone one step above the previous trilogy. This book is beautiful in every sense of the word, from the gorgeous blue and gold cover, to the lovely, flowing prose on the page. It is imaginative and wonderful – like being in a dream; fitting really consider that dreams lie at the heart of the novel.

Our protagonist is Lazlo Strange, an orphan who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep. When Lazlo was young he felt the city’s true name disappear from his mind and ever since he has been obsessed with the mystery of the city. Chance brings him to the great library in the city of Zosma and there he finds every book he can about Weep. He dreams of travelling to the city and then one day a band of travellers ride into town. They are from Weep and they are seeking people to help them with their ‘problem’. Finally Lazlo has a chance to fulfil his dream. Continue reading “Book Review: Strange The Dreamer”

Book Review: Caraval

When I first heard of Caraval by Stephanie Garber I knew I had to read it. Scarlett and Tella have longed to go to Caraval, a yearly magical travelling performance, all their lives. This year, after writing countless letters, they have finally secured invites. When they get to Caraval, however, Tella goes missing and suddenly Scarlett finds herself having to search for her sister in a game that seems far more real and terrifying than any performance.

The cover is so pretty – all black and gold with an arresting white title. I must admit I did imagine that Caraval would be in the same vein as The Night Circus. The colours of the cover gave me that vibe and Caraval itself sounded to me like a circus.

Oh my word, I was so wrong. Caraval is nothing like The Night Circus. Not in a bad way. In fact, I am really pleased that it turned out to be completely different. Caraval is an unique book, one that I am not quite sure how to describe. It is dark but also funny at times and there is romance thrown into the mix too. Trying to pin genres to this book is difficult. Yes, it is YA and probably fantasy, but at the beginning I felt as if there was a slight dystopian feel which later becomes more steampunk. In a nutshell it is a thrilling ride which will keep you guessing right up to the last page.

Caraval is Garber’s first novel but I would never have known this if it didn’t say so in the author biography. Garber’s writing is assured and manages to sweep you up into the strange, sometimes amazing, sometimes sinister world of Caraval. Her words paint a vivid picture of the performance – I could visualise every single building and all the colours that Scarlett sees. At times the writing was so good I did feel as if I was there with Scarlett, sharing her fear and longing to find her sister. Continue reading “Book Review: Caraval”