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”


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: 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: The One Memory of Flora Banks

florabanksThe One Memory of Flora Banks came to my attention one lunch time when an email from publishers Penguin popped up on my screen. The premise of the book – a girl who has amnesia but remembers kissing a boy at a party – had me intrigued and after reading the first chapter I was eager to read more.

That initial chapter vividly captured the character of Flora and plunged me straight into her world of disorientation. Flora still thinks she is ten, but she is actually seventeen. She feels confused by the party she is attending and heads to the beach where she ends up kissing Drake, her best friend’s boyfriend. To Flora’s delight, she doesn’t forget the kiss and so sparks her journey to get more of her memory back.

Once I got my hands on a copy of the book and kept reading, I found that the first chapter was kind of misleading. Now, I understand that Flora has anterograde amnesia and forgets everything every few hours, but for me the first half of the book became too repetitive. After that initial kiss with Drake nothing much happens for the next fifty or so pages. It is not until almost half way through the book that the action finally kicks in and when it does the story does pick up. Continue reading “Book Review: The One Memory of Flora Banks”

Book Review: Me Before You

mebeforeyouIt’s with a slight sense of shame that I have to admit that Me Before You has sat on my bookshelf for three years, waiting to be read. Friends had recommended it and I was aware of all the positive reviews out there about it, but somehow I kept passing over it in favour of other, newer books. To my embarrassment, it wasn’t until I heard that there was going to be a film version that I decided I had to read it.

Turns out, I’ve been missing out all this time. Jojo Moyes’s bestseller is one of those books which totally defies your expectations. From the blurb and the pretty cover, I imagined this would be a story about a girl down on her luck and a disabled man, meeting, falling in love and changing each others’ lives for the better. Little did I realise that Me Before You is actually a deeply moving exploration of disability and the right to decide your own fate.

When we first meet her, Lou has just lost her job. Having worked most of her adult life in a cafe in the small town she grew up in, she doesn’t have much on her CV and struggles to find new employment. Desperate to earn money to help her struggling parents, she reluctantly agrees to attend an interview for the position of a personal help to a quadriplegic man. What follows changes her life forever. Continue reading “Book Review: Me Before You”

Book Review: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

ettaottoI would love to know who came up with the title Etta and Otto and Russell and James. It is so long, which ought to be a bad thing, but it is also arresting. It stands out because of its length. Browsing in the bookstore, this book caught my eye and I was intrigued by the unusual title. I couldn’t tell what to expect from the vague blurb but I decided to give the book a chance and I’m glad that I did.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James is a debut novel, but you would never be able to tell from the assured writing. Emma Hooper has created a short but unforgettable story that haunts you long after you’ve finished it. Her prose mirrors the characters of the book, changing subtly depending on which of the protagonists we are following. It is a clever trick which helps us to get a better idea of what is going on in the minds of the people we are reading about.

The novel begins with Etta, an eighty-three year old lady, leaving home on a quest to get to the sea. She has never seen the sea before and she wants to before she dies. Etta, however, is suffering from dementia and she sets out on her journey by foot, armed with a few supplies and a card with her name and the names of her closest family. Along the way she encounters James, a coyote who joins her in her travels. The book is split between Etta’s journey across Canada and the events of the past, namely how she came to meet her husband Otto and his experience in the war. Continue reading “Book Review: Etta and Otto and Russell and James”

Book Review: The Selection

selectioncoverSometimes it can be hard to keep up with all the YA series out there. In the past few months especially I feel like there has been a new series popping up every day. My to-read list has grown so large it’s probably going to be impossible to read everything on it; I’d need another lifetime for that. The Selection is one such YA series that caught my attention this summer. There have been quite a few tweets popping up on my Twitter feed about it and I have seen some Tumblr posts praising it too. The bright cover with girls in gorgeous ball gowns made me fall in love instantly. Anything to do with fancy dresses and romance and I’m in!

To be honest, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect from The Selection. From the blurb on the back cover it sounded a bit like Big Brother meets Miss World. I certainly never imagined it would be so addictive. After two chapters I was hooked on it. Kiera Cass has a simple, flowing writing style that sucks you in. It feels like you are reading a diary; the way she captures America’s every thought and emotion feels so real and true. It helps that it is a first person narrative, allowing the reader to see through America’s eyes.

The Selection is a dystopian novel. It reminded me of The Hunger Games and Divergent series in the way the world was divided into sections, or castes. There are eight castes in total, ones being at the very top and eights the homeless and vagabonds. Ruling over everyone is the royal family, who reside in a fancy palace in Angeles, the capital of IllĂ©a , what was once North America. In a clever and believable twist, we learn that there have been a further two world wars and the USA was taken over by a Chinese revolution. The country was renamed to escape the shame of their past and has been a monarchy for many years. Continue reading “Book Review: The Selection”