Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review: The Silver Linings Play Book by Matthew Quick

Firstly I have to admit that my reading of this novel, and subsequently my review is undoubtedly coloured by the fact that I saw the film adaptation of it last year. I always try to read the book first, or if I really like the film I put off reading the book for a while so that I can enjoy them both separately, but I was too curious to pass this book up when I saw it on the library shelf.

The whole story is told in first person perspective through Pat's eyes, sort of like a diary, which gives an insight into his incredibly fragile frame of mind. He is an OCD fitness fanatic, recently released from a mental institution (or 'the bad place' as Pat refers to it), who is adamant that he will be reunited with his ex-wife despite the fact that everybody doubts him. His firm belief in silver linings and happy endings at first glance seems to be a positive outlook on life, but as you read on you realise that his dream isn't going to come true, that this isn't going to play out like a typical romance novel, or like the rom-com that Pat insists his life embodies. As no descriptions are given of Pat I can't help but picture Bradley Cooper who, on reflection after reading the novel, played Pat perfectly! In fact, aside from the fact that Tiffany is supposed to be older than Pat, I think that the film was cast brilliantly, and they all portray their characters really well. 

Then along comes Tiffany, a widow with psychological problems of her own. Two misunderstood social outcasts are thrown together, the ultimate odd couple taking silent jogs and eating raisin bran in diners. It's implied from the start that these two are destined to be together, but there is nothing at all predictable about how they get to that point. This is not so much a novel about love as about friends and family; the most entertaining parts of the plot for me took place at the American football games where the Eagles fans, including Pat's brother, friends and therapist, all bonded over their love of the sport.

Very short chapters made this book easy to read, but also easy to put down. It isn't really a novel that you can truly immerse yourself in, and instead of reading it for hours on end I'd read a few pages each day. That said I got through it quicker than I was expecting, and enjoyed it a lot more than I initially thought I would. I grew to really feel for Pat and hoped that his 'film' got its silver lining and happy ending that he so deserved.

It's been a while since I saw the film, but I seem to remember the ending being very different, and the plot was a lot more focused on the dance contest than the novel is. However I do feel that it did the novel justice!

4/5 stars: Quirky and heartfelt, The Silver Linings Playbook teaches us that life is not a movie, or indeed a novel. Things don't always turn out the way you plan them, and that's okay. Life is unpredictable.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Blog Tour: The Bone Church by Victoria Dougherty

Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for The Bone Church, a Historical thriller by
Victoria Dougherty. Check out the rest of the tour schedule here!

  • Publication Date: April 15th 2014
  • Pier's Court Press
  • Formats: eBook/Paperback
  • Genre: Historical Fiction/Thriller/Suspense

Synopsis
In the surreal and paranoid underworld of wartime Prague, fugitive lovers Felix Andel and Magdalena Ruza make some dubious alliances – with a mysterious Roman Catholic cardinal, a reckless sculptor intent on making a big political statement, and a gypsy with a risky sex life. As one by one their chances for fleeing the country collapse, the two join a plot to assassinate Hitler’s nefarious Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, Josef Goebbels.
But the assassination attempt goes wildly wrong, propelling the lovers in separate directions. Felix’s destiny is sealed at the Bone Church, a mystical pilgrimage site on the outskirts of Prague, while Magdalena is thrust even deeper into the bowels of a city that betrayed her and a homeland soon to be swallowed by the Soviets. As they emerge from the shadowy fog of World War II, and stagger into the foul haze of the Cold War, Felix and Magdalena must confront the past, and a dangerous, uncertain future.

Buy the book: Amazon UK   Amazon US   Barnes & Noble   Book Depository   IndieBound

Review
Two storylines are cleverly woven together throughout the course of this novel: the Nazi occupation of Prague during the Second World War and a rescue mission in 1956 Czechoslovakia. Both storylines feature the novels lead characters Magdalena and Felix. This novel is clearly very well researched, and the author's knowledge of her subject is reflected in her writing. Fact and fiction are expertly blended, and the story gives a fascinating insight into the period - particularly for those like myself who have very limited knowledge of it. An intense sense of paranoia permeated the text, and I felt as if I was there alongside Magdalena and Felix on their journey, wondering who - if anyone - they could trust. A few other reviewers have commented on Dougherty's minimalist writing style - I like it. She gets straight to the point and says what needs to be said and nothing more. Another thing that I liked about this novel was its great use of characters; they all brought something to the story, be it through being entertaining or unsettling. It's no exaggeration to say that the narrative is challenging; it is a lot heavier than I've lately been used to and you really have to be paying attention to follow it. That said, it's worth persevering!
I would recommend this book for anyone interested in the period, and for those who like their books to be on the challenging side. 4/5 stars.

About the Author
Victoria Dougherty writes fiction, drama, and essays that often revolve around spies, killers, curses and destinies. Her work has been published or profiled in The New York Times, USA Today, International Herald Tribune and elsewhere. Earlier in her career, while living in Prague, she co-founded Black Box Theater, translating, producing and acting in several Czech plays. She lives with her husband and children in Charlottesville, Virginia.

For more information, please visit Victoria Dougherty’s website. You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Pinterest.


Friday, 18 July 2014

July Book Haul

July's been a pretty slow month for reading, there's always so much going on in the summer that it's difficult to keep up! But even during a slow month there are a few books that manage to make their way onto my bookshelf...

Ice Creams at Carrington's - Alexandra Brown

Georgie Hart and Carrington’s Department Store have got the world at their feet. Since a reality TV series
put them both on the map, life has been amazing! Carrington’s profits are in the pink, Georgie has found a place in the nation’s heart and her romance with Tom, the store’s boss, has blossomed.
Now summertime has come to Mulberry-on -Sea and town is holding a big summer regatta. Georgie and the Carrington’s team are are going to make sure that the town puts on the show of the year!
But Georgie is about to get the offer of a lifetime – something just too good to turn down, one that will test her loyalties to their limits… Will Georgie be able to pull off it off once again, or has her luck finally run out?



The Understudy - David Nicholls

For Josh Harper, being in show-business means everything he ever wanted - money, fame, a beautiful wife,
and a lead role on the London stage. For Stephen C. McQueen, it means a disastrous career playing passers-by and dead people.
Stephen is stuck with an unfortunate name, a hopeless agent, a daughter he barely knows, and a job as understudy to Josh Harper, the 12th Sexiest Man in the World. And when Stephen falls in love with Josh's clever, funny wife Nora, things get even more difficult.
But might there yet be a way for Stephen to get his Big Break?






I was also very excited to receive these two books from Bookbridgr. Can't wait to get stuck in!



What's new on your shelves this month?

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Blog Tour / Giveaway: Phantom's Dance by Lesa Howard


Today I'm excited to be part of the blog tour for Phantom's Dance by Lesa Howard. Read on for a synopsis and review, and don't forget to enter the giveaway!


Phantom's Dance by Lesa Howard
Publication Date: March 1st 2014

Synopsis
Christine Dadey’s family uprooted their lives and moved to Houston for her to attend the prestigious Rousseau Academy of Dance. Now, two years later, Christine struggles to compete among the Academy’s finest dancers, her parents are on the brink of divorce, and she’s told no one about her debilitating performance anxiety and what she’s willing to do to cope with it.

Erik was a ballet prodigy, a savant, destined to be a star on the world’s stage, but a suspicious fire left Erik’s face horribly disfigured. Now, a lonely phantom forced to keep his scars hidden, he spends his nights haunting the theater halls, mourning all he’s lost. Then, from behind the curtain he sees the lovely Christine. The moldable, malleable Christine.

Drawn in by Erik’s unwavering confidence, Christine allows herself to believe Erik’s declarations that he can transform her into the dancer she longs to be. But Christine’s hope of achieving her dreams may be her undoing when she learns Erik is not everything he claims. And before long, Erik’s shadowy past jeopardizes Christine’s unstable present as his obsession with her becomes hopelessly entangled with his plans for revenge.

Goodreads    Amazon     B&N

Review
As a huge fan of all things Phantom of the Opera based, I jumped at the chance to read and review this book! Modernising such a classic story and making it realistic must have been a difficult task, but it works surprisingly well. The idea of setting it in a dance school is just genius! As a reader who knows nothing about dancing, I found the insight into the world of ballet really interesting and a great spin on the original opera house plot. The characters are well written and all bring something to the plot. I also liked how the characters were aware of the original Phantom story, it always amuses me when re-tellings reference the originals. I found the plot a little slow to start with, but it soon picked up and I couldn't wait to find out what happened in the end! I won't give anything away but it's gripping stuff. You don't have to know anything about the original Phantom of the Opera, or indeed ballet, to enjoy this book; it stands alone as a great story!

4/5 stars: A very clever re-imagining of a classic story.

About the Author
I'm not the typical author. I didn't always enjoy reading or writing. While in school, I found it to be a chore I'd just as soon skip. I would rather have been daydreaming, my favorite past time. It wasn’t until I grew up and didn’t have to, that I realized reading was fun. I soon discovered that reading fueled my daydreaming. So, remembering a short story I'd written in high school, I began imagining expanding that story into a book. Before long I found I had loads of ideas for not just the short story but other books and stories as well. Fast forward a few years, a lot of studying about writing, practicing my writing, studying some more, taking classes from people who knew what they were doing, studying and practicing yet more, and ta-dah, author! In the same way I had learned I loved reading, I learned I loved writing, too. It’s just that writing is a lot harder than reading.

Author Goodreads

Giveaway

Enter the giveaway below for a chance to win:
  • A signed copy of Phantom's Dance
  • A Phantom mask
  • A Dahlia from the Phantom
  • A $20 gift card to a bookseller of your choice

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Blogging Confessions

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week's topic is bookish blogging confessions...

1) Being a stereotypical Yorkshire farmer I'm as stingy as they come. I'm always on the lookout for a bargain, and this extends to books. I LOVE browsing Waterstones or any other full price book shop- they're my first port of call when I have time to kill- but I very rarely buy anything. Sorry. On the other hand I can't walk past a second hand bookshop/booksale without having a check to see what they've got!

2) I have an addiction to downloading free kindle e-books. At my last count I had over 200! I don't even own a kindle; I just have the basic app on my phone and check the top 100 free books list at least once a day.

3) I've never bought an e-book. Handy as they are, I just much prefer paperbacks, and can't justify buying a book that I can't have a physical copy of! 

3) I DO judge a book by it's cover. No matter how hard I try I just can't help it. Even if I'm reading books in a series I try and get the editions with matching covers. Makes absolutely no difference but they look prettier!

4) I have library books that I've had out for months because I've too many other books to get through, and I can't bear to take them back unread. 

5) I have a bad habit of reading ahead. I try and avoid reading the last few pages, but I do sometimes skip to the end of a chapter if things are getting tense/awkward, just to make sure everything turns out all right.

6) I'm addicted to requesting ARCs but I'm so behind with reading them! I've actually had to ban myself from NetGalley...

7) I love film adaptations of books. They're rarely true to the book, but I like the idea of them being the director's interpretation of the story. Gives you an excuse to read the book again afterwards too!

8) I'm really slow at getting posts written up. I have a notebook that I jot down notes and draft reviews in for the books that I'm reading, but for some reason it takes me ages to get round to typing them up. I end up having to set aside entire afternoons just to get caught up!

9) I review everything I read. Regardless of how relevant it is, or how popular a title it is, if I finished it I'll post about it.. eventually. 

10) One of my worst habits is leaving a book unread for months, then randomly deciding one day that it needs to be read. Now. If it's one I'm not that bothered about I'll skim read it in a couple of hours. If it's one I really like then I'll carry it with me all day and read a chapter at every opportunity until it's finished. I tend to read at night normally so when this happens my family get pretty puzzled!


What are your bookish blogging confessions?

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Feature and Follow Friday: Favourite Picture Books

Feature and Follow Friday is a weekly meme hosted by Parajunkee and Alison Can Read.

I'm a little late to the party this week, but when I saw the topic I just had to join in. My family, myself included, are a bunch of hoarders. This means that I'm lucky enough to still have all of my childhood picture books, and yes I do like to revisit them from time to time. These are a few of my favourites:


Being brought up on a farm meant that these books basically reflected real life for me- the mum even looks like my mum! Those who know the Usborne books will know the little yellow duck that you have to find on every page.. one year we took a little yellow duck teddy with us on holiday and hid him in every photo. Yeah...










Full of flaps, letters, rhymes and nonsense, I absolutely loved this book, and it's still on my bookshelf today. I remember that the spider used to scare me, which is probably why his envelope is the best preserved in the whole book! I used to sit and stare at the little postcard from Oz for hours!



A lift the flap book full of animals, basically the perfect book for toddler sized me!















What are/were your favourite picture books? 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Review: Prom Impossible by Laura Pauling

Synopsis
Cassidy decides her senior year, including prom, will be about Michael Greenwood, the boy destined to be her soul mate. One problem. He hasn't figured that out yet. But certain events meant as innocent pranks—that weren't completely her fault—introduce her to Zeke, the reformed bad boy. And cutting deals in the boys’ bathroom with Jasper, the hottest guy in school, lands her in a complicated web of half-truths that spirals out of control. At the end of the year, she’s dateless the day before the big night but risks a lot more than her pride if she can’t find a way to fix her mistakes.

PROM IMPOSSIBLE is a modern-day Shakespearean romantic comedy in the world of teens, true love, and life.

Review
Firstly I have to say that I love the cover! I think it is what drew me to the book in the first place. Unfortunately though the cover is the best thing about this book. I wanted to like it -it sounded great in premise- but I just didn't get it. I couldn't identify with Cassidy at all, and her tendency to lie, steal and generally make situations worse for herself I just couldn't understand, not to mention her blind devotion to a guy who barely gave her the time of day! It was obvious to me from the start which of the three guys Cassidy would end up with in the end, although I'm not entirely sure she deserved him after the way she treated him.  That said, the story was well written, and gave an insight into the complicated world of high school. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a 'Shakespearean romantic comedy', but it does set  out to prove that the course of teenage 'true love' never did run smooth.

3/5 stars: A great story in premise and well written, just not for me.

*I received a free e-copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Favourite Classic Books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme is classic books. As an English Lit graduate I've read a fair few classic novels in my time, and these, in no particular order, are some of my favourites:

The Pride and Prejudice of the North.

My favourite of Thomas Hardy's novels.

The most famous of Jane Austen's works, and rightly so.

The battle between love and convention set in
The Gilded Age of New York.

The American classic that everyone ought to have read.
It's so short that you have no excuse!

Loved the film, love the book even more!

The epitome of governess and master romances
(excluding Maria and Captain Von Trapp of course!) Though I do tend
to skip the young Jane sections and go straight to Thornfield.

I saw the film version first, and was blown away when
I read the book some years later. Beautiful.

An underrated Bronte novel that I absolutely love! I
actually prefer it to Wuthering Heights.

I ought to rename my blog 'Second Star to the Right' given that I blog
about this book so much! An all time favourite.


What's on your lists this week? 


Book A Day 30: The Book I'd Save From a Fire

When asked what I would save from a fire, family and pets excluded, my choices are always sentimental ones. The cardboard box in our spare room full of old photos would be my first port of call; taken in the pre-digital age each photograph is a memory from my childhood. It's things like that that are irreplaceable that I couldn't bear to lose. With this in mind this category was an easy one for me. The book that I would save from a fire is Hans Anderson's Fairy Stories - with Pictures that Spring to Life. I had no idea how old it was - I'd always assumed it was my mum's when she was little- but a quick Google search tells me it's at least seventy years old! Must've passed through a fair few generations! Complete with pop-up pages and illustrations that have been coloured in with wax crayons by one of its readers, it is a book that is incredibly special to me. Some of the pop-up pages are a little torn, but given how old the book is and how many times it has been read I'm amazed they still work at all. It may not be worth much but it's invaluable to me.





Which of your books would you save from a fire? Join in the #bookaday conversation over on Twitter, and check out my other choices here!