Book review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

29844228

Thirteen Reasons Why 
By Jay Asher

★★★★
Pub date: 6th August 2009
Publisher: Penguin Random House UK Children’s

So many good books out there, so little time to read them all, right? I agree. However, if you’re going to choose just one book to read this summer, make it this one.

If you follow my blog, you’d have noticed that the books I talk about are the ones that I really liked but mostly, titles that I loved reading. And I really loved Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.

This YA novel revolves around  17-year-old Clay Jensen, who returns home from school to find a strange package with his name on it lying on his porch. Inside he discovers several cassette tapes recorded by Hannah Baker – his classmate and crush – who committed suicide two weeks earlier.  Hannah’s voice tells him that there are thirteen reasons why she decided to end her life. Clay is one of them and if he listens, he’ll find out why.

– – – – – – – – –

I am sure you’ve heard about Thirteen Reasons Why. I am sure you’ve heard about Clay Jensen and Hannah Baker. I know because it’s been all over the place – Netflix launched the TV adaptation a few months ago and it is just so good that a lot of people have decided to read the book as well.

I must confess that I watched the series before reading the book and that I was hooked from the first episode. The same didn’t happen with my friends who told me that they didn’t connect with the characters at all.  Well, of course they didn’t. We are 27 years old and they are supposed to be 10 years younger than us. It is a YA novel – its aimed at young adult readers. And the same happens with the series.

I connected with the characters though, and the actors. I think most of them do a pretty good job and I really (really!) enjoyed watching the series. So I decided to give the book a try and I was not disappointed at all.

I am not going to lie, I was expecting exactly the same story… but they are different. If you read the book first and watch the series afterwards (or viceversa) you’ll find that things are not the same in the book and in the TV adaptation. That happens all the time, though and it’s normal because they have different ways of telling a story and you have to keep the viewers (and readers) hooked from the very beginning.

The plot is not only great but the way the story is told is amazing. I liked how Clay thinks about Hannah and how much you get to understand his feelings. You understand more of what happens to Hannah in the TV series so I definitely recommend watching the series too because it develops the characters a bit more – which is really interesting.
The series is much more explicit than the book and probably aimed at older viewers.

Suicide is a dark topic but it is also something that needs to be talked about. I read so many opinions around the internet and I’ve heard everything. However, I honestly don’t think the book idolises what Hannah did and neither does the series. Both state that, in spite of everything… what Hannah did was her choice.

It was the suspense and the feelings of the characters that kept me hooked. I wanted to know why Hannah did what she did. Did she really have thirteen *valid* reasons to end her life?

I guess it’s your turn to decide.

You can read more about Thirteen Reasons Why here.
And if you feel like reading it, click here to buy the book.

I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Thank you so much to the publisher, it was such a shocking story!

 

Book review: Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

9780007515547.jpg

Not That Kind of Girl
by Lena Dunham

★★★★
Edition: Paperback
Published: 23/02/2017
Publisher: Fourth State

 

I have read loads of books since the beginning of 2017. Well, not as many as I’d have liked but it’s been a busy year. However, I wanted to share with you my thoughts on a particular book that made me smile and laugh. It made me feel nostalgic and I ended up taking it everywhere with me: to the office, on the tube and even to some dates with my boyfriend where I hoped to have the chance to open it up while I waited for him to arrive…

This book claims to be for readers of Nora Ephron, Tina Fey, and David Sedaris and it is a collection of hilarious, poignant, and extremely frank  personal essays written by Lena Dunham – the acclaimed creator, producer, and star of HBO’s ‘Girls’.

– – – – – – – – –

If you type ‘Lena Dunham’ or ‘GIRLS’ on Google, you would find thousands of sites about them. There is so much that is being said on both the author and her series. What is true and what isn’t? You need to find out for yourself and create your own opinion, and that’s what Lena Dunham has taught me: it is fine to have your own voice so in spite of all the bad reviews out there, let me tell you that I found this book witty, interesting, charming and funny. The book is divided in essays and yes, I got lost in some of them but eventually I found myself again, laughing so much I thought I was going to cry.

I’ve run into a lot of people who don’t like Lena Dunham. In reality, I didn’t find her that interesting at the beginning either. I thought – is her only purpose to appear naked in every episode of her series? But you know what? I don’t really care. There are so many hot girls who appear naked everywhere and what if she wants to show her own body and put herself out there? I say YES to that. She’s hot and intelligent and deserves credit not only for the series she created, but for the lessons she teaches everyone of us.

Yes, that is her. Yes, she puts herself out there and shows everyone that you shouldn’t (even for one second) be ashamed of who you are. Even if you are not a size 8, if you have anxiety, OCD or kissed a girl back when you were at school. So what? You are gold, and precious and kind.

And no, this book didn’t changed my life but I enjoyed it. I found myself there (as I am sure a lot of people did) and Lena Dunham has some great life lessons to teach us all. If you liked GIRLS, give it a go because you’ll like this. She lives up to her voice and that’s nice.

So here’s to you Lena, five big, shiny stars.

You can read more about Not That Kind of Girl here
And if you feel like reading it, click here to buy the book.

 

Book review: Happy People Read and Drink Coffee by Agnes Martin-Lugand

30323642

Happy People Read and Drink Coffee
by Agnes Martin-Lugand

★★★★
Edition: Paperback
Published: 07/07/2016
Publisher: Allen & Unwin

The first time I saw this book was in Waterstones Piccadilly, in London, and I loved the title, really – and the cover. I didn’t buy it then, though. A friend of mine mentioned it last month when I was visiting Madrid and it was then when I decided to give it a go…

The book tells the story of Diane, who has  a charmed life as a wife and mother and who is the owner of a literary cafe in Paris called Happy People Read and Drink Coffee. But when Diane suddenly loses her husband and daughter in a car accident, her whole world is shattered. Trapped and haunted by her memories, Diane withdraws from friends and family, unable and unwilling to move forward.

A year after the accident, Diane shocks her loved ones by leaving Paris to move to a small town on the Irish coast to rebuild her life alone. There she meets Edward, a brooding, handsome photographer who lives next door. Initially Edward resents Diane’s intrusion into his solitary life, but before long they find themselves drawn to each other . . .

– – – – – – –

This is a heartbreaking and uplifting story and I can say that I loved every word. It is an easy read in the sense that the story moves fast but it is also very sad to read what happens to Diane and how she lives after the car accident because she is clinically depressed and doesn’t work. She also spends her days in bed, drinking coffee, smoking and remembering her husband and daughter. However, when she decides to leave Paris and moves to Mulranny, in Ireland, her life changes.

Yes, she finds a new man. Edward but even though I really liked Diane, I found him very rude and disturbing but I must say I did like how their story develops. I won’t tell how it ends but I admire this book because it shows hope and bravery. It is not unrealistic and Diane doesn’t move on, forgets her husband and finds a new love in a short period of time – instead, the story focuses on how she finds herself again, her path and how she grows to accept what has happened to her.

Highly recommended, this is an enlightening novel that won’t leave you indifferent. I couldn’t have found a better novel to finish 2016 – because after the hard year that we’ve left behind, this book has shown me that there’s still hope, and a reason to keep fighting.

You can read more about Happy People Read and Drink Coffee here.
And if you feel like reading it, click here to buy the book.

Book review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Finding Audrey
by Sophie Kinsella

9780857534583

Edition: Hardback
Publisher: Random House Children’s Publishers UK
★★★★★

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella was a book that I remember seeing on the shelves numerous times. Its attractive and mysterious cover made me think of Audrey Hepburn but the truth is, I never really looked at it properly. It was one of my colleagues who told me about the author and her books and highly recommended it. So when I found a hardback copy of the novel at YALC’s book swap last summer, I decided to give it a go. And I’m very happy I took the time to find Audrey, really.

Sophie Kinsella’s first YA novel revolves around a fourteen-year-old girl who cannot leave her house. This is, of course, Audrey. An anxiety disorder disrupts her daily life and she wears sunglasses all the time. She can’t even take off her sunglasses inside the house. Then her brother’s friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again – well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she’d thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to he real world seems achievable. Be prepared to laugh, cry, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel you have lost yourself, love can still find you…

– – – – – – – – –

I loved this book so much!  The above blurb does not make it justice, I promise. Finding Audrey has been recently been added to my All-Time-Favourites and it will remain there. There’s no much I can say except that it is funny – I was laughing out loud while reading it – that I loved the characters (all of them) and that it is believable, sweet and inspiring. This book raises its voice and presents the reader with a main character who suffers from an anxiety disorder, a main character who is depressed – and that, I think, is really powerful.

This is not your typical YA novel – mind you, give me a typical YA novel any time! – and that is very beautiful. Yes, there is Linus and the feelings she develops for him but the book is much more than that: it’s a story about courage, family, respect, understanding, support, friendship, mental health and finding oneself. Please, read it – this book is SUNSHINE.

Book review: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart

The Boyfriend List*
By E. Lockhart
* 15 guys, 11 shrink appointments, 4 ceramic frogs – and me, Ruby Oliver

9781471405969

Publication: 14th July 2016
Paperback / eBook
Publisher: Hot Key Books – Bonnier Zaffre
★★★★

I love a good YA novel; that’s a fact. So when I saw we were publishing this title by E. Lockhart (the first one in the Ruby Oliver series) I couldn’t help myself: I needed to grab a copy!

This funny title revolves around Ruby Oliver, aka Roo – who is fifteen and has a shrink. It’s just because she’s had a pretty awful past ten days, though. During this period of time he has: lost her boyfriend (#13 on the boyfriend list), lost her best friend, lost all her other friends, did something suspicious with a boy (#10), did something advanced with a boy (#15), had an argument with a boy (#14), drank her first beer (someone handed it to her), got caught by her mom (ag!), had a panic attack (scary), lost a lacrosse game, failed a math test, hurt Meghan’s feelings, became a social outcast, and had graffiti written about her in the girls’ bathroom. Ruby lives to tell the tale, though. Through a special assignment to list all the boys she’s ever had the slightest, little, any-kind-of-anything with, comes an unfortunate series of events that would be enough to send any girl in a panic.

– – – – – – – –

This book really (really) hooked  me and it was very difficult for me to put it down.I felt trapped!

It’s YA at its best; a book in which the author explores some of the challenges of being a teenage girl: boys, highschool, gossip, dances and female friendships.

Ruby is extremely funny and I like that the author doesn’t present her as a perfect character: she makes mistakes, she doesn’t appreciate her real friends or her parents enough and she hangs on to boys for all the wrong reasons.
But when she starts seeing Doctor Z, she clearly begins to understand what’s going on around her – and learns a few good lessons along the way.

Despite the great amount of boys in this book –  in fact, there are so many that I lost track of which one Ruby was talking about -I learnt a lot because of the message that is present in the story and what can be read between the lines: the effects of toxic relationships, gossip, fake friendships and their influence in mental health and dating patterns.

Lockhart is fantastic; and her writing style is super funny and witty. If you enjoy YA, give it a go – for real. And don’t forget there are 3 more books in the series…

  • The Boy Book
  • The Treasure Map of Boys
  • Real Live Boyfriends

Book review: Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

Mad Girl
By Bryony Gordon

9781472232083

Publication: 7th June 2016
Hardback / eBook
Publisher: Headline Publishing Group

Mad Girl – Bryony Gordon’s latest book – is everywhere, just as The Wrong Knickers was when it came out a couple of years ago. And now I understand why.

Just so you know a bit more about this title…

Bryony Gordon has OCD. It’s the snake in her brain that has told her ever since she was a teenager that her world is about to come crashing down: that her family might die if she doesn’t repeat a phrase 5 times, or that she might have murdered someone and forgotten about it. It’s caused alopecia, bulimia, and drug dependency. And Bryony is sick of it. Keeping silent about her illness has given it a cachet it simply does not deserve, so here she shares her story with trademark wit and dazzling honesty. It’s time for her to speak out. Writing with her characteristic warmth and dark humour, Bryony explores her relationship with her OCD and depression as only she can.

– – – – – – – – –

 I LOVED this book. It made me laugh and it made me cry and it showed me reality. In a world of social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat) – in which all that matters is your pretty, happy and smiley face – it’s so INSPIRING to find someone who speaks up and makes you realise that hey, it’s OK not to be OK.
You are not weird. You are not alone. In fact, you’re perfectly normal.

Bryony Gordon is just fantastic and does wonders with her writing. Mad Girl is shocking, funny, heart-wrenching. And then again, that’s what it’s supposed to be: a celebration of life with mental illness, a positive attitude against adversity and the revealing truth about the importance of loving oneself.*

This book is just extraordinary.
Thank you, Bryony.

* A very well-known fact that no one puts into practice or cares about.

Book review: London Belongs To Us by Sarra Manning

London Belongs To Us 
by Sarra Manning

26177619

Publication: 02/06/2016
Paperback / eBook
Publisher: Hot Key Books, Bonnier Zaffre
★★★★

The first time I heard about this book was during my first week at Bonnier Zaffre and most of my colleagues seemed excited about this new title by author Sarra Manning. Oh, okay – I thought – another book about London, another girl-meets-boy  book in which they will discover the marvellous city they live in. And well, no need to say I was -obviously – completely wrong.

London Belongs To Us tells the story of seventeen-year-old Sunny, who has always been a little bit of a pushover. However, when she’s sent a picture of her boyfriend kissing another girl, she know she’s got to act. The story presented in the novel presents the reader with a mad, twelve-hour dash around London – starting at 8pm in Crystal Palace (so far away from civilisation you can’t even get the Tube there) then sweeping through Camden, Shoreditch, Soho, Kensington, Notting Hill… and ending up at 8am in Alexandra Palace.

Along the way Sunny will meet a whole host of characters she never dreamed she’d have anything in common with – least of all the handsome (and somewhat vain) French ‘twins’ (they’re really cousins) Jean Luc and Vic. But as this love-letter to London shows, a city is only a sum of its parts, and really it’s the people living there who make up its life and soul. And, as Sunny discovers, everyone – from friends, apparent-enemies, famous bands and even rickshaw drivers – is willing to help a girl on a mission to get her romantic retribution.

– – – – – – –

I started reading Sarra’s novel when I was having my hair done in a terrible, terrible place near Kilburn Park station. I had forgotten my book at home but luckily, I was carrying my eBook reader with me and I remembered I had London Belongs To Us ready to be discovered. And what a marvellous read!

As someone who has moved to London from another country, I am fascinated by this city and I find really interesting to discover new things about it. The main character of this novel is young, funny and loves London more than anything else. Her enthusiasm for the city is contagious and the way in which she tells the story is brilliant!  I loved that each chapter in the book began with the name of a place in London followed by a description of its history because it was very interesting to learn more about it.

I also liked to see London’s diversity playing a key role in the book – because if there’s something great about the city, that is its diversity and also the respect that flows throughout its streets – and how the author succeeds in making London a character itself.

I was trapped from the very beginning and laughing out loud all the way through. The plot is fast-paced (the whole story takes place within 12 hours) and is full of fantastic descriptions of people’s feelings. The writing is exceptional – I am already looking forward to reading some other books written by the author – and the characters are adventurous and engaging.

I gave it four stars because I didn’t find the end as satisfying as I’d have loved to. There was something missing there! However, that’s just how I felt about it: some people have told me that the ending didn’t disappoint them and that they really liked it!

I guess you’ll have to read it in order to find out.

May you all have fun with Sunny around London!

Book review: Birdy by Jess Vallance

Birdy
by Jess Vallance

25269375

Publication: 02/07/2015
Paperback
Publisher: Hot Key Books, Bonnier Zaffre
★★★★

I have been reading lots of books lately so there’s various reviews that I have to share on my blog but I wanted to post this one first not only because I enjoyed the book but also because it’s been a while since I read a YA novel and this is one that captured my attention from the very beginning.

Birdy is the story of Frances Bird, a teenager who has been a loner for so long that she’s given up on ever finding real friendship. However, when she’s asked to show a new girl – Alberta – around school, she begins to think her luck could finally be changing. 

Eccentric, talkative and just a little bit posh, Alberta is not at all how Frances imagined a best friend could be. But the two girls click immediately, and it’s not long before they are inseparable. Frances could not be happier.

As the weeks go on, Frances finds out more about her new best friend – her past, her secrets, her plans for the future – and she starts to examine their friendship more closely.

Is it, perhaps, just too good to be true?

– – – –

Nothing can prepare you for this darkly compulsive tale of friendship and obsession; I mean it: nothing. I’ve always been a great fan of YA but Birdy is different from anything I’ve ever read before.

The book started out as a usual high school story but became creepier and creepier as the chapters went on.
As mentioned in the synopsis, the whole book revolves around Frances and her friendship with Alberta. Frances narrates the story and presents the reader with different episodes about their days at school, the time they spend together hanging around and how their friendship develops. I thought all these episodes would have a strong meaning and that some truth was going to be revealed but they don’t- which I found a bit frustrating – and they are there just to entertain the reader.

As I kept reading I started to feel uncomfortable with Frances and her way of thinking. Just as one of they many reviews on goodreads affirms: ‘the more you read the more messed up it becomes until you’re left seriously disturbed’. Well, I couldn’t agree more. This book is notoriously dark.
Frances – who in the beginning seems like a ‘normal’ teenager who lives with her grandparents and has always been quite lonely – becomes obsessed with her new friend and controls everything she does. She is manipulative and becomes terribly fixated with the idea that Alberta is ‘hers’.

Another aspect that I would like to mention is the writing because I found it addictive. I finished the book in two days – honestly, I couldn’t put it down. It’s not very long and it’s a very well-written YA novel which ending horrified me.

I know I have said it before but I ended up terribly disturbed! I didn’t expect such a shock! And I loved it.  The story ends with a magnificent (and very dark) twist which the reader won’t see coming. 

Jess Vallance’s new book – The Yellow Room  will be published in August 2016 (Hot Key Books) and I am already looking forward to it.

Book review: Not Working by Lisa Owens

Not Working
By Lisa Owens

9781509806546

Publication: 21/04/2016
Hardback
Publisher: Picador, Pan Macmillan
★★★

Lisa Owens’ novel was one that I was really looking forward to read. Luckily, one of my colleagues told me she had a proof copy – the perks of working in the publishing industry, right? – and she was going to let me read it. Bless her, that made my day.

Not Working presents Claire Flannery – the heroine of the story – who has voluntarily quit her full time job in London in order to discover her true vocation. However, she soon realises that… she has no idea how to find it! All the new extra time that comes with being unemployed only encourages her to dwell on the uncertainties of her life. While everyone around her seems to have their lives entirely under control, Claire finds herself sinking under pressure and wondering where her own fell apart.

‘It’s fine,’ her grandmother says. ‘I remember what being your age was like – of course, I had four children under eight then, but modern life is different, you’ve got an awful lot on…’

———

Picador really knows how to promote a book and they have done amazingly well with this one. When I read the synopsis I realised that – even though I had (and have!) an awful (and lovely) lot of books to read – I was going to put everything on the side and try to find out what Claire Flannery was all about.

I saw the novel a few times at different Waterstones and I couldn’t help to admire its cover, with those unusual bright colours. The thing is when you see a book with this kind of  jacket, you know it’s going to be something special. Indeed, the subject and the heroine seem to break with traditions and even the way Owens has written her book is quite peculiar.

The novel’s format presents the story through short vignettes and thoughts under headings which at first I found a little bit off-putting. However, as I settled into it, I found myself really enjoying it. It is true that a character like Claire, this kind of anti-heroine who doesn’t know what she wants and seems to be lost in the modern world, can be found in previous titles such as The Diary of Bridget Jones but I don’t agree with reviewers who have stated that Claire is the new Bridget. They are completely different characters and the reasons why they decide to quit their jobs are definitely not the same. As far as I can remember, Bridget Jones leaves her publishing job because she doesn’t want to be next to her boss Daniel after he lied to her. On the other hand, Claire leaves because she wants to try to find herself which is a completely different reason – and a better one! Whether she succeeds or not – you’ll have to find out by reading the book… of course!

Having said this, I must add that – even though I liked the book and the way the author presents the story – I was expecting so much more. It ended quite suddenly and I was left with this weird ‘is-that-it?’ kind of feeling.

So many good things were said about the novel that I genuinely thought it was going to be unique and made me laugh out loud. It didn’t. It’s a funny book, don’t get me wrong, and it’s very well written but I still cannot see what all the hype is about. Definitely a good read and something you’ll enjoy. I don’t think this book will ‘change your life’ , though. But then again… not all books are meant to do so. Some of them are meant to make you smile and have a good time.

And this is what Not Working did for me.

Book review: Shadows of the Workhouse by Jennifer Worth

Shadows of the Workhouse
By Jennifer Worth

9780753825853

Publication: 22/01/2009- London, United Kingdom
Paperback
Publisher: Orion Publishing Co
★★★★★

Shadows of the Workhouse is the second title in the Call The Midwife Trilogy written by Jennifer Worth. In this follow up to Call the Midwife – which first published in June – Jennifer Worth, a midwife working in the East End of London in the 1950s, tells more stories about the people she encountered.

_______

After my experience reading Jennifer Worth’s first book, I was very much looking forward to this one and I must say that it didn’t disappoint me. Not a tiny bit! The paperback is available to buy from Amazon and bookshops but I bought myself the Kindle edition.

This sequel continues the story that was first started in Call The Midwife, and revolves around Jennifer’s memories of Nonnatus House, the nuns that lived and worked there, the people she met and treated, and life in the docklands in the 1950s.

The complete title of the book is Shadows of the Workhouse: The Drama of Life in Postwar London and I was eager to start reading it because I thought I’d find the same kind of stories I did in Call The Midwife. I didn’t. Shadows of the Workhouse is, in fact, a much darker book and much sadder as well. Jennifer’s writing remains the same – light and beautiful – but the stories she remembers throughout the pages are blue and truly heartbreaking.

In the book you’ll find Jane, who cleaned and helped out at Nonnatus House and was taken to the workhouse as a baby. Then there’s also Peggy and Frank’s story; their parents both died and they were left destitute. At the time, there was no other option for them but the workhouse. You’ll also meet Reverend Thornton-Appleby-Thorton, a missionary in Africa who visits the Nonnatus nuns. And then there’s Sister Monica Joan and her shoplifting habits… which, in the end, will take her to court.

Shadows of the Workhouse is definitely harder to read than its predecessor -the stories it explores are very tragic – but it also reveals the reality of workhouses and life as it truly was in postwar London.
Jennifer Worth’s memories  help the reader to learn a bit more about the history of England and how society was organised. If you like history, you’d love to read about these and you’ll learn while you read – which sounds very boring but it really isn’t?

The BBC TV series brought this title to the screen by mixing its stories with more pleasant ones – and not everything was presented as remembered by the author- so I’d definitely recommend giving these books a go, instead of just relying on the TV portrayal of her memories. Her stories give a fascinating insight into the resilience and spirit that enabled ordinary people to overcome their difficulties. It’s a powerful book,  based on powerful memories and written by a powerful author. It’s sad I only have one title left to read in the series…