Top 5 Tuesday: Summer Time Reads!

Top 5 Tuesday: Summer Time Reads!

If you aren’t familiar with Top 5 Tuesday, it is a group here on WordPress now currently run by Shanah over at BionicBookWorm, where each week they give you a topic and you talk about 5 books that fit that category.

This week’s topic is ‘Top 5 Summer Time Reads’.

This is my first Top 5 Tuesday post so lets get started!

 

Wild | Cheryl Strayed

I read this memoir just after I’d started traveling. I had landed in Thailand with my boyfriend and my backpack ready for our crazy adventure and this book was just the perfect start to it. It’s an extremely captivating story and it becomes so much more about just Cheryl’s journey. It is powerful and raw and exceptionally written. It’s not a typical summertime read as it’s quite deep and takes on some serious issues but for me, it was perfect and just what I needed.

 

 

Me before you | Jojo Moyes

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I am such a big fan of this series which is so unlike me! I generally don’t read many romance type novels, but absolutely loved this one. It is so heart-breakingly beautiful, and the characters are just genuinely lovely. I think this is the perfect summer read as its completely gripping, you will want to devour it in one go by the pool and it is a genuinely heart-warming (and heart-breaking) story.  Lou is my spirit animal and I loved that Moyes continued her story. I also think that the other 2 novels in this series would make great summer reads!

 

 

To all the boys I’ve loved before | Jenny Han

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This was another book I read whilst I was traveling, and I think it’s the perfect summer read. It is light, fun and interesting enough to keep you reading. I loved Jenny Han’s writing and her characters. There wasn’t that much too the story and it was quite predictable but that’s sometimes what I like in a summer read. I want something I don’t have to invest too much emotion in to, that I can just read and appreciate the story for what it is and this book allows you to do this.

 

 

Since you’ve been gone | Morgan Matson

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I picked a copy of this up from a charity shop and I didn’t really expect much from it to be honest, but I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s the perfect summertime read as its light, with likeable characters and a cute love story. It’s predictable yes, but it’s also interesting and fun. There are a lot of YA coming of age type stories out there so it can be hard to feel like your reading something new, but Morgan Matson’s story was quite refreshing. She brings in elements of friendship, family and love and genuinely relatable characters. I can imagine this book being perfect poolside reading (even though I read it in rainy Manchester!)

 

 

The Rosie Project | Graeme Simsion

 

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I must admit I was very late to discovering The Rosie Project but as they say, better late than never! It’s unique and endearing, the characters are interesting, well developed and hilarious and it genuinely does give you that warm fuzzy feeling you get after reading a happy ending. You may have noticed from my previous posts that I am a massive John Green fan (also perfect author if you’re looking for summer reads) and this book reminds me of some of his. Simsion has created an unusual setting for a love story to take place in and like Green, he makes The Rosie Project about so much more than just a love story. I really recommend this book if you haven’t read it already. (for any season really, but it would be a good beach read!)

 

Have you read any of these books or have any summertime reading recommendations of your own? Let me know in the comments below!

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REVIEW: The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

REVIEW: The Exact Opposite of Okay – Laura Steven

 ‘Izzy O’Neill here! Impoverished orphan, aspiring comedian and Slut Extraordinaire, if the gossip sites are anything to go by . . .

Izzy never expected to be eighteen and internationally reviled. But when explicit photos involving her, a politician’s son and a garden bench are published online, the trolls set out to take her apart.

Armed with best friend Ajita and a metric ton of nachos, she tries to laugh it off – but as the daily slut-shaming intensifies, she soon learns the way the world treats teenage girls is not okay. It’s the Exact Opposite of Okay…’

 

Let me start by saying this is one of the best, if not the best book I have read so far this year. Thank you, Laura Steven, for writing this masterpiece!

The Exact Opposite of Okay is the book every girl/woman needs to read. Steven’s takes on slut-shaming and the ‘friend-zone’ head on in this powerful YA novel. She creates the perfect balance with the serious subject matter and the hilarious tone.

Izzy O’Neill is my hero and the female protagonist of my dreams. She is self-aware, progressive, hilarious and undeniably relatable. One of the things I enjoyed the most about this book was watching Izzy’s character progress. She starts out unsure of herself and by the end she has grown so much and develops into this headstrong and powerful young woman who knows her worth.

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Steven’s also continuously privilege-checks herself which was something I really admired. She acknowledges that whilst this subject matter is one that all girls/women can relate to, there are also other marginalised women/girls that face this and more on a daily basis.

This novel is extremely thought provoking and could be an uncomfortable read for some people as it really makes you question your behaviour and attitudes. I do believe that this story is powerful enough to change people’s views. It is insightful and eye-opening into how women are treated in todays society.

I honestly wish I had a book like this in my life when I was 16 and I urge you to read it!IMG_3927

I know that Laura Steven is writing a sequel to this book so Laura, if you read this, please hurry up! I can’t wait to see what Izzy does next!

 

Have you read this book? Let me know what you think of it in the comments below!

WWW Wednesday – 20/06/2018

WWW Wednesday – 20/06/2018

Welcome to WWW Wednesday! This meme is hosted by Taking on a World of Words. Just answer the following three questions:
What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

 

What are you currently reading?

I’m currently reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón. It is set in Barcelona just after the Spanish Civil War and I’m not too sure where the story is going but so far it is about a young boy and a forgotten book that now seems to have everyone’s attention. It is taking me a while to get into this book, but I have had a lot on at the minute, so this may be why. I do love books about books, so I have high hopes for this one and I’ll definitely be sticking this read out as I’ve heard great things about this one.

What did you recently finish reading?

The most recent book I read was If We Were Villains by M L Rio which was amazing. The story centres around Oliver Marks, a former theatre student who has just been released from prison after serving his sentence for the murder of one of his closest friends – a murder he may or may not have committed. Oliver is finally ready to tell his truth to the one person who’s been desperate to know all along, the very detective who was first assigned the case. Oliver takes us back to where it all started, his final year at a drama student at a small private arts college whose program specializes in Shakespearean drama. I won’t go into too much detail as I don’t want to spoil anything but trust me when I say this book is brilliant! The characters are incredibly rich, the writing is incredibly beautiful and who doesn’t love continuous quotes and references to Shakespeare? (As an English Literature graduate, I may be slightly biased as the Bard will always have a special place in my heart.)

I also recently read Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng. This book was quite different to anything else I’ve recently, but I really enjoyed it. It’s a powerful exploration into the family dynamic. The plot centres around the unexplained death of a young girl that fractures the family she left behind. It is very intense but also very moving. I love her writing and I can’t wait to read her novel Little Fires Everywhere which I’ve already downloaded on my kindle!

What do you think you’ll read next?

Next on my tbr list is ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ as I’ve been trying to introduce more fiction into my library. This book first came onto my radar when Emma Watson shared is as part of her Our Shared Shelf project, but I’ve only just gotten around to ordering it.

Other books I’m keen to read next are The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris and The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller as they’ve both had amazing reviews.

What are you currently reading right now? Have you read any of these books and is so, what did you think? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

NEW REVIEW: ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ by John Green

NEW REVIEW: ‘An Abundance of Katherines’ by John Green

Let me start by saying that I love John Green’s writing. Going into Katherines I had already read most of his books and was a firm fan. This hasn’t changed but unfortunately Katherines didn’t live up to my expectations. It read like a John Green book, but it didn’t feel like a John Green book. His books are known for really hitting you with all the feels, but Katherines just didn’t do this for me.

I was drawn in by the premise as is always the way with Green’s books. He always manages to come up with an inventive scenario in which his story takes place and Katherines did not disappoint. Colin Singleton is a child prodigy who feels as though he has not lived up to his genius potential. Colin also happens to have dated and been dumped by 19 girls all named Katherine. Not Catherine or Katharine. Katherine. The combination of these two peculiar circumstances create the atmosphere for a great story and admittedly, the Katherine element of the story did keep me hooked. Green holds out on all 19 Katherine stories until the end of the book but gives you enough snippets throughout to keep you interested. After getting dumped by Katherine XIX (19), Colin goes on a road trip with his best friend and meets non-Katherine, Linsey Lee Wells (how does he come up with these names?) in a middle of nowhere town where his summer adventures begin.

Katherines, in its most basic form, is a boy meets girl story but John Green style and with a lot more maths – it wasn’t integral to the plot that you understand any of the maths so don’t be put off by this. The storyline was somewhat predictable in areas, but this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as Green gives his readers the ending they all want to see but it does mean that when you reach the end of the book you don’t feel as though anything that profound has happened. As ever, Green is a master at setting up the ‘meet cute’. The protagonist Colin and his potential new love interest Lindsey, meet on a tour of the grave of the Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand (yes, the one who’s death basically started WW1). Colin who has only ever dated Katherines finds out that Lindsey has only ever dated one person. His name was Colin. John Green does it again.

I didn’t really like Colin but that tends to be the case with a lot of Green’s protagonists. Colin is a self-centred, anagramming, whiney teenage boy with the most privileged of problems – he is too smart to be considered ordinary but not smart enough to be considered extraordinary. He is unrelatable to the average reader and whilst we can understand him not feeling like he fits in or that something in his life is missing, we can’t empathise with him. We can’t understand what it feels like to be Colin Singleton and I think that is my main problem with this book. I wasn’t invested in Colin or his story like I wanted to be. Hassan on the other hand is a character the reader could have invested in. He is Colin’s best and at the beginning, only friend and was lovable, relatable and not half as irritating as Colin, but I suspect that this was Greens intention. (Side note – I might start a petition to get Hassan his own story because I just really want to know how he’s doing).

However, despite not being Colin’s number one fan, his obsession with anagramming was one of my favourite parts of the book and when I read the author’s Q&A at the end, I fell in love with Greens response to why this was such huge part of his story. He said:

‘Anagrams say something about the malleability of language. We always think of language as an immovable object, as this set of coiffed and unbreakable rules. But when you consider that one can arrange the letters in PRESBYTERIANS and spell BRITNEY SPEARS, it reminds us that language can be twisted and moulded. Words are not static. Language shapes our memories, and it is also shaped by our memories.’  

If all I took away from reading Katherines was this beautiful testament to the magnificence of language, then it would have been well worth it. As it is, I think Katherines has more to offer than just this. It does tackle some commonplace young adult fiction topics like fitting in, friendship and facing the future but it doesn’t really offer anything unique in these areas (other than the aforementioned abundance of maths).

I gave this book 3 stars out of 5 on Good Reads because I did enjoy reading it but for me it lacked that something that makes Green’s books so special. However, I would still recommend reading it if you are a fan of John Green as it is interesting, funny at times and beautifully written.

My Top 5 Reads of 2017

My Top 5 Reads of 2017

Seeing as we are now well into 2018, I thought it was about time I finally wrote up my favourite reads of 2017.

I read a lot of amazing books in 2017 but I’ve managed (struggled) to come up with my top 5.

Some of these books are very similar to each other but others are completely different, which is basically my reading style summed up. I don’t have a go to genre that I always read, or a writing style that I prefer, I just love stories. I love escaping into the world on the pages and immersing myself in the lives of the characters and each of these books has found a unique way to let me do that, so I’m sharing them with you.

 

  1. Sleeping Giants

At number 5 we have Sylvain Neuvel’s debut sci-fi novel, Sleeping Giants. I will admit that I did pick this book based on the cover (don’t judge me, we all do it) but I am so glad I did. As someone who likes to escape and immerse myself into a story, sci-fi is one of the best genres for this, and Seeping Giants was no exception.

The novel tackles the big question of ‘where do we come from?’ and the more sinister question, ‘what if we weren’t the first ones here?’. After the discovery of a rare metal that predates human civilisation, a doctor and her team try figure out how something so complex and incomprehensible could be so old, and most importantly, who made it and why?

The most interesting part of this novel for me was the narrative style Nuevel uses. The story is composed using journal or log entries, letters and call logs from various characters. This creates a scientific and investigative tone that allows for the story to unfold from various points of view and gives the narrative more depth as it means events can be presented factually in reports or personally in diary entries.

Nuevel combines just the right amount of mystery and science-fiction to get his readers hooked and has created a unique and interesting story that even those who don’t usually enjoy science-fiction would appreciate.

Sleeping Giants is part of The Themis Files series and Neuvel has since published 2 more novels in the series, Waking Gods and Only human. I haven’t had the chance to read his other novels yet but I’m definitely looking forward to finding out what happens next!

 

  1. Crazy Rich Asians

I have had Crazy Rich Asians on my ‘to read’ list for so long and that when I finally picked up a copy of it when I was in the Philippines, I couldn’t wait to start reading.

Kwan’s outrageous and hilarious novel focuses on the life of Singapore’s most eligible bachelor, Nicholas Young and his American girlfriend Rachel Chu. What was meant to be a fun trip to Singapore to attend Nicks’ best friend’s wedding, turns into an unexpected whirlwind of a summer for Rachel who has no idea that her boyfriend comes from an unbelievably wealthy family. Rachel is thrown in head first to the exciting and scandalous lives of Singapore’s most elite and barely makes it out unscathed.

I visited Singapore about 3 months before I read this novel and I really wish I had read it before going. Kwan captures a part of Singapore that tourist don’t get to experience which is why I think I found this book so interesting. Kwan’s Singapore is full of scandalous drama, fascinating characters and lots of amazing food. His descriptions are so vivid that I could picture every extravagant outfit, every decked-out ballroom and every ostentatious mansion. He isn’t just telling you about this part of Singapore’s culture, he’s inviting you in.

Crazy Rich Asians was a hilarious, insightful and genuinely unlike any other novel in its genre. It’s the perfect holiday read but be warned, you will be hooked immediately, and your tanning efforts may be affected.

There are also 2 other novels in the series (one of which I’ve read) and Crazy Rich Asians is also being made into a film that is set to come out this summer. 

 

  1. My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry

I am a massive fan of Fredrik Backman’s writing and this novel is one of the main reason why.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is the story of a young girl called Elsa, who’s grandmother and closest friend, and has just passed away. Elsa’s Grandmother leaves her with the task of delivering letters to all the people she feels like she has wronged in her life. She ends up discovering more about her grandmother’s past identities than she ever could have anticipated.

Even though Elsa is only 7 years old, she is fierce, courageous and incredibly intelligent. I was in awe of how perfectly Backman captured a child’s perspective on life in this story and his ability to create an exceptionally interesting and dimensional range of characters throughout his novels. In this story, every person that Elsa encounters on her journey is unique and it is such a delight to watch all of the characters unfold, grow and defy any expectations the reader may have had of them.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry is a gorgeous testament to the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren everywhere and made me want to pick up the phone and call mine immediately. If you only ever read one of Backman’s novels, let it be this one (but please don’t only read one because they’re all brilliant and equally as beautifully written).

Backman didn’t continue Elsa’s story in another book, but he did focus one of his later novels on character from this story. It is called ‘Britt-Marie Was Here’ and I’ve not read it yet, but I’ve heard from people who have that is equally as witty and brilliant.

 

  1. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

As debut novel’s go, Gail Honeyman has hit it out of the park with this one. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is beautiful, hilarious, heart-breaking and unlike anything I have ever read before. It is truly unique and is a novel that I’d recommend to everyone, regardless of what they may usually read.

I won’t give too much way regarding the story as I think one of the best things about this novel is how surprising it is. I had heard the general buzz around this novel, but I went in without any expectations and I was completely blown away by how powerful and wonderful it was. To sum it up briefly, Eleanor Oliphant is an unusual, withdrawn and inevitably lonely woman. Up until now her adult life has been ruled by order and routine that Eleanor meticulously abides by. An unlikely accident brings Eleanor out of her daily routine and changes her life drastically. This change brings her to realise that maybe she is not, to use Honeyman’s words, ‘completely fine’, maybe she is quite the opposite.

As a reader, it is impossible not to be empathetic with Eleanor. Honeyman has managed to make her tragic yet heroic and an undeniably lovable character. Eleanor’s story is not an easy one, nor is it a comfortable one. There will be times when you as the reader will feel despair, confusion, frustration and even anger and this is just one of the many reasons why this novel is so amazing. It leaves such an impression on you once you have finished and it conveys a powerful message about loneliness that many may not have understood before.

I cried, I laughed, I learned, and I will be forever grateful that this book was brought into my life. I can’t wait to see what Gail Honeyman writes next.

The film rights to this novel have recently been acquired by Reece Witherspoon so it looks as though we’ll be seeing Eleanor on our screens sometime in the near future!

 

  1. Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down is John Green at his best. This is my favourite novel of his yet and I wish I could have the experience of reading it as new all over again. I have never connected with a story in the way that I did with this one and I think that is because Green seems to have written a bit of himself into Turtles All the Way Down.

Turtles All the Way Down is about a 16-year-old girl named Aza who suffers from multiple anxiety disorders and is trying to uncover the mystery of a fugitive billionaire. As in all his novels, Green uses an unusual plot line for the setting of this story, but this novel is far from just a quirky mystery. It is an in-depth and insightful look into the life of someone living with severe anxiety and shines a light on how anxiety affects people in ways that you may never even consider. Because of this, it is at times an uncomfortable and upsetting read but for me, that was part of its brilliance.

Green is never one to shy away from discussing the serious stuff. He has touched on mental illness in his previous novels and has been very vocal about his own struggles with mental illness. In Turtles All the Way Down, Green appears to be facing his demons head on. If you are looking for a romance story with a happy ending then this is not for you because life isn’t really like romance novels, and Green understands this. His characters are real and relatable and utterly brilliant.

Turtles All the Way Down is not only in my top 5 reads of 2017, it is also one of my favourite books of all time. (Bold claim, I know).

 

So, there you have it. My top 5 reads of 2017. It feels cathartic to have shared why I fell in love with each of stories and to leave them behind in what was an extremely interesting year for me. I already can’t wait to share more thoughts with you on my favourite books but in the meantime, please feel free to leave any recommendations of your favourite reads of 2017 (or of any year) in the comments!

 

Thanks for reading! If you want to find out more about what I’m reading, then please follow me on GoodReads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/56259889-laura-lee