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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2017: A Year in Books

It’s that time of the year again when it’s traditional to look back and summarise the past 12 months. 2017 has been a strange year. There have been some truly low points and a couple of milestones, but mostly it has been a bit meh. One thing that has been good about 2017, however, is the wealth of great books I have read.

After a bit of a reading slump in 2016, I am happy to report that this year I read a lot more and, for the most part, I have enjoyed almost every single book I picked up. Reading has gotten me through the past 12 months, so below I have listed my favourite reads of the past 12 months.

Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

2017 has been a brilliant year for contemporary YA and I have certainly read a lot within this genre this year. One of the first books I read this year was Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon and I simply fell in love with it. The characters are extremely likeable and the love story between Olly and Maddy is both cute and touching. A must-read for anyone looking for a sweet romance to devour.

Caraval – Stephanie Garber

Another read from early in the year which has stayed in my imagination is Caraval. With an air of The Night Circus about it, this book is mysterious and enchanting. Nothing is quite as it seems in this book and you find yourself questioning everything and everyone. Scarlett is a very likeable and strong heroine who manages to blend vulnerability and courage. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a bit of suspense along with their romance.

Strange The Dreamer – Laini Taylor

I love Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, but Strange The Dreamer just elevates her writing to a whole other level. The words on the page are so prosaic and they weave a simply beautiful story filled with magic, love, tragedy and hope. You cannot help but fall in love with Lazlo, a hero who represents all the dreamers of the world. If you only read one book next year, make it this one. I guarantee you will fall under its spell.

Lord of Shadows – Cassandra Clare

When it comes to YA fantasy masterpieces, Cassandra Clare is on point. Lord of Shadows is the follow-up to Lady Midnight and it is every bit as thrilling as I hoped it would be. Emma and Julian continue to wrestle with their feelings for one another while their world slowly unravels around them. The majority of this book is set in London which just made it all the more delightful to me because I knew the places mentioned. Lord of Shadows is a highly political book, mirroring the turbulent times we currently live in. There is also plenty of magic, adventure and romance to keep you hooked right up to the heart-wrenching ending.

When Dimple Met Rishi – Sandhya Menon

I loved this book. Cute, romantic and funny, it was the perfect summer read. As a fan of Indian culture, I loved all the Hindi and cultural references scattered throughout this book. Dimple and Rishi are adorable and their love story made my heart melt. The supporting characters are also great, especially Dimple’s mom who is a typical Indian mother wanting to get her daughter married to a respectable boy from a good family. Dimple’s interactions with her were some of the funniest parts of the book.

Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index – Julie Israel

In the past I wouldn’t have bothered with a book like Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index. The main themes are loss and grief, but having experienced these things myself this year I found this book a big comfort. Juniper is struggling to come to terms with losing her sister in a car accident. When she finds a letter from her sister addressed to YOU, she sets out on a mission to discover who this person is. Along the way she makes mistakes, finds new friends and falls in love. This book really helped me think about the way I’ve been processing my grief and I could quite often relate to how Juniper was feeling. I really loved the idea of the happiness index cards. The best thing about this novel, however, is the friendship group that Juniper builds up around her. I really loved seeing these teenage girls bonding and standing up for one another; it was so refreshing and it’s true that friends are so important when going through a tough time in your life. No matter whether you have gone through something similar to Juniper or not, I am sure everyone will enjoy this book.

Seven Days of You – Cecilia Vinesse

Another great summer read, I literally could not put this book down. It is so cute and romantic and made me want to go to Tokyo. Vinesse paints such a vivid picture of the city that I felt like I was there with the characters. Sophia is a very likeable heroine and I adored her romance with Jamie. It really is proper cheesy cuteness but it was so much fun and just what you need for a bit of escapism.

Language of Thorns – Leigh Bardugo

This compilation of fairy-tales set within the Grishaverse is just beautiful. From the gorgeous illustrations to the new take on some classic fairy-tales, this was the perfect Halloween read. I loved how each tale was full of grey shades, and it wasn’t always clear at first who the real villain of the story was.

Night of Cake and Puppets – Laini Taylor

Laini makes the list twice, but she is seriously just an amazing writer. Night of Cake and Puppets is a novella about Zuzana and Mik from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. Anyone who has read that series will remember how adorable they are, and this novella is just so romantic and beautiful and made we want to go to Prague when it’s snowing. Zuzana’s plan to romance Mik was pure genius and I loved how he turned the tables on her. There is also a cameo from Karou. A must-read for fans of the trilogy.

Those are my favourite books read in 2017, but what are yours? Do you have any recommendations (because I really need to add to my TBR pile…)? What books are you most looking forward to in 2018?

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: 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”

To Read 2017

We may not be quite one month into 2017 but already I have my eye on lots of up-coming book releases. February and May are shaping up to be particularly good months for those with a fondness for literature. While I am ashamed to say that I am still reading the book I started at the beginning of January, I am determined to try to read more this year. With that in mind I have come up with a list of the books, old and new, I am most excited for the coming months.

caravalCaraval, Stephanie Garber

I first came across this one through Twitter. Released on 31st January, the blurb conjured up echoes of The Night Circus for me. Caraval is about two sisters longing to escape their tiny island and abusive father. Caraval is a yearly event, a week of magic where the audience is part of the performance. The sisters receive the much awaited invitation but once there one of them is kidnapped and it is down to the other to try to find her. I love stories about magic and the blurb promises adventure and romance, so I am rather intrigued to get my hands on a copy of this book.

The Best of Adam Sharp, Graeme Simsion

One of my favourite books of recent years is The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It was just so utterly heartwarming and joyful. When I learned that Simsion had a new book due out in February I knew I had to add it to my wish list. The Best of Adam Sharp is about a 50-year-old man who leads a stable but mundane life. His world is rocked when an old flame walks back into his life. Angeline was the one that got away and now she’s come back into his orbit he finds himself wondering what if…?

wintersongWintersong, S. Jae-Jones

Another up-coming novel that came to my attention through Twitter, Wintersong sounds like a classic YA fantasy tale. Liesl has always been fascinated by the Goblin King and the stories she has heard about him have inspired her music. When Liesl is eighteen, her sister is taken by the goblins and Liesl must journey to rescue her. The blurb promises adventure and a fantastical goblin kingdom and the cover alone is pretty enough to entice me to buy a copy. Wintersong is released on 7th February.

Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor

Laini Taylor is one of those writers whose imagination astounds me. Her Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy was so unique and amazing that it has to be read to be fully appreciated. If this new series is anything like her trilogy then it will be outstanding. The concept sounds very different to other YA fantasy books out there. Lazlo Strange has been haunted by the same dream all his life and the only way to lose that dream is to travel to the city of Weep where, two hundred years ago, a massacre took place. Strange the Dreamer brings a new twist to the mythology of gods and sounds truly epic in scale. I can’t wait to delve into it when it is released in March.

lordofshadowsLord of Shadows, Cassandra Clare

The sequel to Lady Midnight, Lord of Shadows is the newest installment from the world of the Shadowhunters. Emma is in love with her parabatai, Julien, but relationships between parabatai are forbidden. To try to protect Julien she has begun dating his brother Mark. Mark, however, has his own secrets and is emotionally scarred from his time in Faerie. With the faerie courts rebelling against the Shadowhunters the stage is set for conflict and heartbreak. Cassie has a knack of reeling her readers in and shredding their emotions to pieces. I have full faith that Lord of Shadows will be just as much of a rollercoaster as all her previous books.

As well as these new releases there are some books that have already been published that I am eager to add to my collection. A friend recommended The Sun is also a Star by Nicola Yoon and I am also keen to read Instructions for a Second-Hand Heart by Tamsyn Murray. I’ve also nearly finished reading Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas and I have enjoyed it so much I have to read the others in the series.

So many books, so little time. What is on your reading list this year? I am always looking for recommendations so please feel free to share any titles you are excited for in the comments. Happy reading everyone!