Reading Challenge 2015 – A Book Set In A Different Country

Book Number Eight – The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide.

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I spotted this book in Waterstones a couple of months back and being both a cat lover and a bookworm, I thought it was the perfect combination.

The blurb of the book and the fact it is a ‘New York Times’ bestseller led me to believe that this would be a magical story where a cat comes into the lives of an older couple and breathes a fresh new perspective into their worlds and reignites old passions. But actually it’s not this at all, although there are times where the man and his wife share some rather sweet moments with Chibi, the guest cat, the book is actually quite convoluted.

For what I was hoping to be a quite an uplifting novel, actually ended up making me feel a little sombre. Although well written it just failed to offer any kind of magic and wasn’t a gripping enough tale to keep my attention span for long, I was reading about two chapters a day, which for such a short book (136 pages to be exact) is really quite disappointing. The only redeeming feature are the moments where the author focused on Chibi’s unusual little ways, these were things that would make all cat lovers feel warm.

‘It’s the need to re-confirm how precious someone was and how irreplaceable, and the desire to reconnect with them on a different plain.’

Star Rating out of 5: 2.5

Here’s a kitten gif to make you smile.

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Happy reading fellow bookworms.

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Reading Challenge 2015 – A Memoir

Book Number Seven – Slow Motion by Dani Shapiro.

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There are plenty of memoirs out there I could have picked in order to tick this one off the old Reading Challenge, but as something of a podcast nut (I listen to an awful lot) this one piqued my interest when I heard the woman herself perform an extract from it on the brilliant podcast ‘This American Life’

Slow Motion is about an event that struck Dani’s life and in doing so made her re-evaluate herself and the decisions she had been making. A beautiful young woman who became the mistress to her best friends, much older, stepfather, quit college to become an ‘actress’ and slowly became dependent on cocaine and scotch.

The thing that instantly struck me about this memoir was the style of writing, although being incredibly open and honest it was written in such a way that you could really relate to the sense of confusion Dani must have been feeling at that point in her life. Dani’s descriptions about times that are so incredibly bleak are beautifully written, despite the sometimes awkward and upsetting subject matter.

As the book progressed and Dani started to talk about how she slowly turned her life around, I began to feel somewhat disappointed. I felt that she had invested so much raw emotion into the book telling us about her life, the events that transpired, yet I don’t feel I was given enough information about the journey after she made the choice to stop drinking, doing drugs and making the decision to go back to college. The timescale seemed to jump around quite a bit, which affected the overall fluidity of the piece and made a somewhat hollow ending to an otherwise well written novel.

‘She’s wearing a pink flannel robe, and I want to be her. I want to have a life where robes and cats and mugs of tea are within the realm of possibility.’

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Star Rating out of 5: 3

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

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Reading Challenge 2015 – A Book Written By A Female Author

Book Number Six – Yes Please by Amy Poehler.

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Like most people I’ve come to know Amy Poehler as the passionate, lovely Leslie Knope in the hit TV Series Parks and Recreation. I’m also familiar with her work in films like Mean Girls, Blades of Glory and her stint on SNL. So to say I was excited to learn more about her is an understatement.

After reading Bossypants and laughing so much, I guess I was expecting much of the same from Yes Please, but I was wrong to make any assumptions. You know that old saying, it is wrong to assume anything because it makes an ass out of you and me?!…Well…that!

Yes Please is an honest and unflinching account of Amy’s life, the highs, the lows and everything in between. Although not as humorous as Tina Fey’s book, I found this an inspiring read. Amy Poehler is a lady who I would love to meet and talk to, she’s had a fascinating journey to get where she is today and she’s certainly not afraid to be incredibly frank about how hard work is the key to success.

‘Good or bad, the reality is most people become “famous” or get “great jobs” after a very, very long tenure shovelling shit and not because they handed their script to someone on the street.’

The book isn’t braggy or self-pitying and Amy isn’t afraid to even highlight and discuss her flaws or mistakes she has made in the past. She’s insightful and driven and the more I read, the greedier I became to get through the book quicker.

‘Your ability to navigate and tolerate change and its painful uncomfortableness directly correlates to your happiness and general well-being.’

Amy’s book is well written, honest and uplifting. She is a, if not, the, true lady of comedy.

‘Things happened in real time and you watched them together. There was no rewind.’

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Star Rating out of 5: 5

Happy reading fellow bookworms.

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Reading Challenge 2015 – A Book Written By Someone Under 30

Book Number Five – Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

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It’s funny that right after reviewing Malcolm’s book this should be the one I review. I didn’t know anything about Girls’ or Lena Dunham until he brought it to my attention. I remember that I had just finished University and I had a few days off before I was back in work, so I thought I’d watch an episode or two of Girls’ needless to say I binge watched the entire first season in a day.

Lena was likeable and refreshing. To me it was a relief to see a real woman on the screen, someone who was a little shorter and had a healthy figure, in comparison to the 6ft leggy girls with perfect blonde hair (not that there’s anything wrong with that) but it was nice to see women being presented in a more realistic way, with warts and all. So when I heard she had released a novel, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

Not That Kind of Girl is a series of essays where Lena talks about everything from sex, body image and friendships in a beautifully candid way. The thing that struck me about the book was her willingness to share even the most painful of experiences with the readers, in the hope that it would prevent it from happening to other people, or in the hope that it would wake people up to the realities of things that may have happened to them. I remember when the novel came out that a lot of people ‘spoke out’ and accused her of being sexually abusive to her younger sister, but I feel that this was people latching onto two paragraphs of the book that were not given the full or proper context of which it was written.

This is a great book; Lena’s ability to write about some rather difficult or ‘awkward’ subject matters offers a breath of fresh air to the literary world. At moments when I was reading I found myself chewing on my lower lip as I empathised with certain encounters she found herself in, being able to relate not only to her reactions but her through processes too. This book was so relatable for me to the point where  I intend to write a very passionate email of thanks to her PR, in the hope it will be passed on to Lena.

From the whole novel it was her essay entitled ‘Is This Even Real? Thoughts on Death and Dying’ that really struck a chord with me. I suffer from anxiety and depression and sometimes out of nowhere I suffer from panic attacks and get struck with this fear so overwhelming that it takes my breath away. When I was a child I was always fearful of my parents dying, when I was 24 I held my father’s hand as he slipped into an eternal sleep after a five-year battle with Cancer. Since then I’ve come to understand the true fragility of my own mortality and it overwhelms me, stupidly and rather ignorantly, I thought I was the only one who suffered from these moments of gut gripping fear, so to see Lena write about what I have found so difficult to put into words for years and know that I’m not alone, really means a lot. It made me feel a little saner, something I often struggle with when something so minute can seem so amplified for me.

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This is a great collection of essays from a truly formidable and talented lady. A recommended read for all women out there.

‘ As a little kid, an unnamed fear would often overtake me. It wasn’t a fear of anything tangible-tigers, burglars, homelessness-and it couldn’t be solved by usual means like hugging my mother or turning on Nickelodeon shows. The feeling was cold and resided just below my stomach. It made everything around me seem unreal and unsafe.’

 

Star Rating out of 5: 5

Happy reading folks.

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Reading Challenge 2015 – A Book Published This Year

Book Number Four – Transatlanticism: A story of Love, Life and Music by Malcolm Foster.

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As part of my Reading Challenge I was required to read a book published this year and whilst this would have been a fairly easy task, I wanted it to be something pretty special. So when my friend and fellow podcast partner in crime told me he’d finally finished his first novel and had it published this year, it seemed that serendipity was playing a part.

Transatlanticism follows the story of Tom who upon attending his ex girlfriend’s New Years Eve Party finds his world turned upside down when he meets the beautiful Laura. The two share a truly special evening; they connect with each other over everything from their favourite music, films and books. Sadly fate has other plans in store, Laura is going back to the States in a few days. Tom feels his world crash around him.

Fast forward 10 years and Tom is in a relationship that isn’t going anywhere, he feels no real connection with Alexa, and when his life seems to go from bad to worse he turns to music as a way of healing himself. During this time he begins to run a successful website that highlights unknown music acts, he begins talking to a mystery girl and she soon embodies his every waking hour.

Tom decides to do some traveling and travels to the US to see some of the bands he has covered on his site, and then through a crowded room he sees her. I’d like to say I was being biased here as Malcolm is my friend, but I’m really not. He has a true skill for writing and with this novel he has created something frustrating, warming and heart breaking in equal measure. There are some typo’s (which is largely down to a rubbish friend not proof reading the novel as she promised him she would – that person may be me and for that Malcolm I can only publicly apologise) Typo’s aside it is a little gem of a novel and the great thing about this is Malcolm has also put together a playlist which readers can listen to whilst reading. Which makes this a truly immersive read, as well as something of a musical education.

A funny, thoughtful and promising read from one of the genuinely sweetest, most hard working people I know.

‘We might be dead tomorrow, he tells me, so today we must treasure all that we love as vibrantly and as proudly as we possibly can.’

 

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

 

You can grab a copy of Malcolm’s book from Amazon.co.uk and you can access his playlist to work alongside the novel via Spotify.

Happy reading you lovely bibliophiles.

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What Else Am I Doing?…..

I often worry that my lovely, loyal readers think that I am procrastinating or taking my sweet time when reading books, but I assure you I am reading most of the time (largely in thanks to my daily commute to work) but I have also been busy this year, reading and reviewing books for the wonderful website Belle About Town.

Here are some of my latest offerings to the site, please do check them out.

http://belleabouttown.com/belle-at-home/books/book-review-the-bone-clocks/

http://belleabouttown.com/belle-at-home/book-review-darker-edge-of-desire/

http://belleabouttown.com/belle-at-home/book-review-devils-demise/

http://belleabouttown.com/belle-at-home/book-review-an-inside-look-at-a-woman-named-coral/

Thankfully my book reviews seem to be doing well and from March I will have a MONTHLY article on the site that will cover not one, not two but THREE book reviews. I’m really happy and love being part of the site, but don’t worry I won’t neglect you guys. Just yesterday I finished reading another book as part of the 2015 Reading Challenge in which I am partaking, and have started on another one today. So keep your eyes peeled for a review in the next day or two.

Happy, snug reading to one and all.

Georgina

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Reading Challenge 2015 – ‘A Funny Book’

Book Number Three – Bossypants by Tina Fey.

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I’m only familiar with Tina Fey from SNL, Mean Girls and presenting the Golden Globes, and although she’s often made me laugh I wasn’t sure if her autobiography would be more serious and toned down.

I can honestly say hand on heart I have never laughed so much at book. Usually when I say something has made me ‘LOL’ it just means I exhaled louder than usual through my nostrils but this book genuinely made me laugh out to loud to the point where I cried…actual tears…on the train…in front of other people.

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With Bossypants Tina talks about her childhood, her journey into the world of theatre and improvisation and takes us right through her time on SNL and the battle she had with getting 30 Rock off the ground.

Throughout the novel she talks honestly and openly about everything from the reality of photo shoots, being a working mother and questioning your life decisions when you turn 40. But instead of feeling like a pity party she injects her unique humour and voice into the situations and you can’t help but feel relieved that someone else (especially someone so successful/powerful) has the same worries and mishaps as the rest of us.

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This is definitely one of the best books I have read, not only this year, but in a long while. It was refreshing to laugh so much at a book; sadly it’s not really an experience I’ve had a lot during my love of literature but this one certainly delivered. What originally was going to be the ‘Book with a one word title’ soon turned into ‘A Funny Book’ and it happened so unintentionally that it made it even more brilliant.

 

Star Rating out of 5: 5

 

‘I wouldn’t trade the small thin-lipped mouth that makes me resemble my nephew.’

 

Once again, I’d love to know if anyone else out there is taking the same Reading Challenge as me. If you are why not comment below and let me know how you’re getting on.

Until next time fellow bibliophiles, happy, snug reading!

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