Monday, 12 August 2019

If Only by Melanie Murphy

If Only
by Melanie Murphy

Summary: Erin is about to turn thirty and her life is definitely not where she thought it would be. She hates her job, she's jealous of her perfect flatmate - and she has just called off her wedding.
 
A trip home to Ireland to celebrate her birthday with her beloved grandmother is exactly what Erin needs, and she's spent days preparing herself to break the news about her broken engagement. 
What she's not prepared for is the gift she receives: a secret family heirloom that will change everything. 
Could this be the answer Erin has been looking for - the key to the happy life she's always dreamed of? Only time will tell...
This book totally surprised me. Honestly, I went into it not sure if I would love it -- it's not my typical genre of preference and I think I did judge it by the cover quite a lot (the cover does not do the book justice at all and feels a bit mismatched). But, I wanted to read it because Melanie Murphy is bloody fabulous and I loved her writing in her non-fiction book.

My point is, I loved this. It surpassed my expectations, definitely.

It was the perfect balance of all of the things. It had sweet bits, but no sickly sweet. It had magic, but it wasn't over the top. It had darker, more serious parts about eating disorders and mental health and grief but it did it in a way that felt respectful and realistic without it casting a shadow over the whole book.

Most of all, I just loved the characters. I loved that all of them were flawed and realistic and I loved that friendships were such a big part of the book, Erin and Reid's friendship totally had my heart. Her granny cracked me up too, she was lovely and reminds me a lot of my own granny.

Erin was a great main character. She was so easy to relate to and I loved that, I loved that she didn't have the perfect life, even in the end. I loved she was a representation of achievable happiness, because plenty of us have moments where we feel like our lives aren't what we expected or like we're not where we should be based on some arbitrary timeline (I think that's why this genre usually isn't for me, the endings are often happy to a fault which isn't my thing).

The only thing that comes to mind that I don't like is that I don't have access to Erin's necklace, because that would definitely come in handy.

Anyway, I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5 and I'm really looking forward to whatever Melanie writes next.

Later.

Friday, 5 July 2019

Catch Up & Mini-Reviews

Well, hello! It's been a while, hasn't it?

It's not secret that the past few years have been A Struggle for me as far as reading goes, I've probably whined about it on here plenty. Reading slump after reading slump, and in amongst that there was a lot of blogging burn out too, so this year I've just not been stressing about it. I took some time off from blogging, which took the pressure to read off and...it helped.

I've read 43 books so far this year (not much compared to some, but a lot in comparison to previous years). Quite a few of them have been kids books (thanks to the two new tiny humans in my life), but I'm counting those anyway because I can.

I guess my point is...I'm still here? And I figure that instead of writing a review for every book I've read in my blogging absence, I'd just do a little catch up post with mini-reviews. So here they are:

The Amy Shaw Experiment by Kelly Oram

Thoughts: I didn't like this one. I honestly don't even remember what it was about, but I rated it X stars out of 5 and it was completely forgettable which says it all really.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Thoughts: I'm pretty sure I read this, or some of it, years ago but I couldn't remember much about it other than I am. I am. I am. so I decided to reread it and...I'm sure a lot of people will be horrified by this but I just found it really underwhelming. It felt important, and there are moments of beautiful writing and the honesty in it is great but I've read better memoirs that deal with the same subject matter. I liked it, but I'm just not in awe of it the way some people seem to be.

The Subtle Knife by Philip Pullman

Thoughts: I enjoyed this book way more than the first one. It still isn't living up to the hype (again, maybe if I read it when I was younger I'd like it more), but I did really like this one.

The Flat Share by Beth O'Leary

Thoughts: This is just a really cute, fun book. It's one of those ones that I loved while reading it but it didn't linger with me the way the really great books do. It's a good-in-the-moment book.

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Thoughts: I can't believe how long it took me to get round to reading this one. But, once again, I wasn't impressed. I don't know if the problem is me, or the books, or the fact that books like this and The Bell Jar are put on such a high pedestal that they just never live up to expectations...but I didn't like this book. It was an interesting concept and I'm glad I read it, but that's about it.

Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siren Queen

Thoughts: I read this duology on a whim and I really loved it. It was fun, great characters, and kept me hooked from start to finish. I ordered the second book before I'd even finished the first (I'd been questioning whether I'd totally outgrown YA fantasy books until I read this one).

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green

Thoughts: I went into this book hesitantly. I think Hank is great, but John has always been The Author of the two of them and Youtubers getting book deals because of fame rather than genuine literary talent has been A Thing for a while (with exceptions). But the book was really good. It's not my usual genre but it was wonderfully weird, loved the characters and I'm desperate for the sequel and it's people like Hank that have made me not just write off books by famous Youtubers.

The Silence of the Girls by Pat Barker

Thoughts: I feel like I've been reading a lot of Greek Myth retellings, though it reality it's probably only been 3 or 4, but I really loved this one. It tells the story of the Trojan war from the perspective of Briseis (one of my favourite characters from all the adaptations I've read/seen/heard).

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Thoughts: I sort of hated this book and that bothers me, because so many people whose recommendations rarely fail me said this one was great but other than the importance of the subject matter, the book was mind numbingly boring. It took me so long to drag my way through it in spite of how short it is. To me, boring is one of the worst things a book can be. I would honestly rather a book made me mad than bored me.

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Thoughts: I loved this book so much. The characters and the setting were so vivid and it burrowed it's way under my skin and made me care about all of it. Definitely one of my favourites this year.

Unearthed and Undying by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Thoughts: This duology was just okay. I enjoyed the first book way more than the second, which fell kind of flat to me and felt more like a filler book than an ending.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Thoughts: This book is excellent, but so frustrating. I think that's part of its charm though. It's a bit Midsummer Nights Dream, where everyone loves the wrong people only there's no magic to make it work itself out in the end and I liked it more because of that because it's easy to want the storybook ending, but it's realistic. You don't get to choose who you love, you can't force it, so I loved that. And I loved the the quirky setting and interesting characters.

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han

Thoughts: Cute book, but honestly this is one of the rare times where I think the movie is better than the book. I liked the characters more in the movie, I liked the relationships between them more in the movie. There were only a few minor things that I felt the book did better.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Thoughts: I didn't like this one nearly as much as I expected to. It's an interesting retelling (I won't say what it's a retelling of, because that would spoil it big time) but I just didn't like it. I didn't feel invested in the characters, I didn't like the way it all played out and it felt like the most interesting characters weren't featured as much as they should've been.

The Ocean At the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

Thoughts: So I'm beginning to realise just how many disappointing books I've read this year...because this one was disappointing too. There were moments of beautiful writing, the story itself was strange and original which I appreciated, the problem was I just didn't give a damn about any of it. I didn't feel invested in anything that happened in the book, didn't particularly care about any of the characters. The book overall was just a bit meh.

The Place on Dalhousie by Melina Marchetta

Thoughts: This isn't my favourite of Melina's books, but it was still really good and she still writes some of the best, most realistic characters and relationships I've ever read and I loved that.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Thoughts: I really enjoyed this one, because the relationship between Patroclus and Achilles was beautifully written but the end felt a bit rushed, a bit underwhelming, like it didn't live up to what came before it (I went into it knowing how it would end, given it's a retelling, but it's the execution of it that fell a little flat for me).

Fully Functioning Human (Almost) by Melanie Murphy

Thoughts: I loved this one. I related to so much of it and it was well written. The right amount of deep, the right amount of funny. Melanie is just one of those really great humans, like she has quite a decent online presence and yet she's one of the ones that still seems totally genuine and down to earth and rather than caving to the pressure to present herself and her life in certain way, she calls out the toxicity of that and...I just really like her and her book.

And I guess that's it. There's a few other books I haven't included (like I said, I've read some kids books too, but I'm not really interested in reviewing those).

Hope all has been well with you lot in my absence.

Later.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Daisy Jones & The Six
by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Summary: For a while, Daisy Jones & The Six were everywhere. Their albums were on every turntable, they sold out arenas from coast to coast, their sound defined an era. And then, on 12 July 1979, they split. Nobody ever knew why. Until now. They were lovers and friends and brothers and rivals. They couldn't believe their luck, until it ran out.  
This is their story of the early days and the wild nights, but everyone remembers the truth differently. The only thing they all know for sure is that from the moment Daisy Jones walked barefoot onstage at the Whisky, their lives were irrevocably changed. Making music is never just about the music. And sometimes it can be hard to tell where the sound stops and the feelings begin.

Before this book, I had only read one other Taylor Jenkins Reid book (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo), which I loved. Well this one has firmly cemented Taylor on my favourite, auto-buy authors list.

I hadn't even made it a third of the way through the book before buying a finished copy because I just needed it on my shelves.

I felt so thoroughly invested in these characters and their story. I was totally surprised by how much I enjoyed the format of the book -- it's told via interviews with the characters and I loved that it showed how the characters didn't always interpret or remember things the same way and there was that element of unreliable narration to it. The interview thing will be hit or miss for some people, for me it was a massive hit.

And the writing was fantastic, I marked so many quotes I loved throughout this book (which, again, shocked me because of the format, I didn't think the format would've allowed for lovely prose but it did).

The  way the book ended was a little bit disappointing, a little bit underwhelming but it also felt like it was the only way it could've ended well for this story. It felt realistic for these characters, and the way it ended just made it feel all the more real -- like I finished the book feeling like I'd read the story of a real 70s rock back and real people.

I'm not sure there are many authors out there that could pull off a story like this so well, but Taylor Jenkins Reid did it and did it brilliantly. So now I need to go back and read all of the books she's written that I've missed while I eagerly wait for her next release. 

I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5.

Later.

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