Everything I Know About Love – A Review

I’ve had this book sat on my shelf for a good few months; it came onto my radar when I overheard some female colleagues discussing it. I was intrigued to see what all the fuss was about. Dolly Alderton talks us through her teenage years and her first realisation of boys/men. Instantly I found the content relatable when she discussed MSN Messenger and the way you’d sign out and then back in again to get your crushes attention. I was guilty of this, I was also guilty of having the courage of being hidden behind a computer screen to say to a guy “You’re so cute, I really fancy you!” and then having the instant panic a second after hitting send of being rejected or laughed at so covering my back with a “Omg sorry, my cousin wrote that!” which when I think about it, was the worst excuse ever.

As the book goes on we learn about Dolly’s adult life, her early 20’s, nights out where she drank until the early hours of the morning (and still went to work) and the whirlwind relationships with men. There are moments of the book that are laugh out loud funny and some that really struck a chord with me. Especially when talking about her anxiety and relationship with drink. She looks at the power of female friendship and dissects how, as women; a lot of us tend to put what we think a man wants ahead of what we actually want. It’s these moments that I found myself nodding my head in agreement and feeling so happy to see someone being so open and candid about these things.

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It’s not a book that men should avoid either, Dolly hasn’t written this as some feminist manifesto or celebration of sisterhood, but actually takes ownership that there are no bad men or bad women, just some bad timings, decisions and ways of dealing with things. As she says later on in the book, and I’m paraphrasing here, no break up happens because you did nothing wrong, on some level you were responsible for the relationship breaking down, no matter how small. So don’t lay the blame on the man. You have to take responsibility and courage to look at what you did wrong too.  She also talks about dating in your 30’s (something I had some experience with) and once again I found her words to be incredibly true. Everyone has a history, especially if they’re single in their 30’s! One line particularly jumped out at me.

“If you lose respect for someone, you won’t be able to fall back in love with them.”

This made me think of my ex and our marriage breaking down, but it also made me think of myself. For many years I had no respect for myself and consequently found it hard to love myself and see anything worthy in me. It’s taken time for me to get where I am, and I still have days where I long to be that 17 year old girl with no worries or loss or heartbreak and that unshakable confidence I had at such a young age, but I’m getting there. I’m learning to know who I am, faults and all, and respect who I am, even love who I am. This book is more about friendship and the power of the “mundane” aspects of love that often get overlooked for not being particularly awe inspiring. But they’re actually the moments that mean the most (and the ones you should cherish) they’re the moments I know I long to share with my mum since her passing. The moments that seemed insignificant at the time but actually they were perfect moments between me and her. Dolly puts it more beautifully than I ever could.

“…it also happens when you’re lying on blow-up air beds in a childhood bedroom, sitting in A&E or in the queue for a passport or in a traffic jam. Love is a quiet, reassuring, relaxing, pottering, pedantic, harmonious hum of a thing; something you can easily forget is there, even though its palms are outstretched beneath you in case you fall.”

It’s hard not to read and finish this book without taking stock of your life, thanking the world silently for all the good it gives you and enjoying the sun on your skin. It’s more than a book; it’s a hug and an awakening.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

Have you read it? What were your thoughts? Comment below, happy reading beauts.

G.
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An Evening with Joseph Knox

I’m fairly new to the work of Joseph Knox, my ex purchased me a copy of his debut novel ‘Sirens’ back in March (which is the nicest thing my ex ever did but I digress) The main thing that pulled me in was the fact that it was set in Manchester, my birthplace and home. Being able to perfectly visualise the surroundings made it easier to read, combine this with the fact all the chapters were named after Joy Division songs, albums or EP’s and instantly I was hooked.

Joseph wove a story full of complex characters, drama and dark imagery. At the centre of the story is Aidan Waits, perhaps one of the most intriguing characters I have come across in literature in recent years. I tore through Siren’s pretty quickly and moved onto his next book ‘The Smiling Man’ which pulled me in from the blurb on the back alone. So to have the opportunity to hear the man himself discuss his new release ‘The Sleepwalker’ wasn’t something I wanted to miss.

On a rainy evening in Manchester I sat and watched the unassuming Joseph Knox talk about his latest novel and the way he struggled with getting it out there. He spoke about how at times he felt like walking away from it. It’s commendable the dedication he shows to his craft, it took him 10 years to get ‘Sirens’ finished and published. He was working full time and only had time to write the book in the evening and weekends. Many people would have given up, he didn’t and thank goodness he didn’t!

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It was clear to see when he was talking the amount of thought and passion he puts into his work, proclaiming that he has a fear of repeating himself or churning out something with a constantly familiar story line. He refuses to do it. He talked about how with other detective books, you usually learn so much about the main protagonist within the first few chapters, but with Aidan Waits you don’t and that is part of the intrigue and my love for the character. Two books in and I still only know a few details about him, he’s a character that leaves you wondering. As Joseph said Aidan “plays his cards very close to his chest” which is an incredible skill for a writer to have, to be able to lure people in without giving away too much. It’s no mean feat, but Joseph manages it. I could be ignorant and say he does it with ease, but that would be an insult to the apparent hard work and planning he puts into his novels.

Joseph quashed the rumour that he’s a Mancunian; he was born in Staffordshire but always had a romantic relationship with Manchester, moving and working here when he was a little older. This is something that, for me, comes across in his second book ‘The Smiling Man’ the way Aidan views the city in the hot summer months through almost romantic lenses. I was born and bred in Manchester but it made me feel moved to hear the love and respect that Joseph has for this city, and the way he felt that it was the perfect setting for his crime noir books and the even more complex character of Aidan Waits.

But it is when Joseph talked about the way the City has changed in the past ten years and the spice epidemic amongst the homeless and the people in Strangeways and the way it’s impacted upon the most vulnerable of people in our society that I was truly moved. Joseph talked about how when doing research for ‘The Sleepwalker’ he came across a Government website that was faulty, he saw the amount of mothers/fathers emailing Strangeways expressing concern about their sons who are currently incarcerated seeming suicidal or becoming addicted to spice. They were reaching out asking for help or an explanation and were given none. The very people becoming addicted to the drug seen more as an unseemly thing that should be overlooked as opposed to helped. He talked about how spice is taken because for people living on the street or in prison it passes 8 hours as quick as the click of a finger. Admittedly very tempting for those people and not something others should be so quick to judge. Joseph physically teared up at this and said he was hoping that his new book could give those people an answer they deserve. It’s refreshing to hear someone in Joseph’s position using his skills to highlight and shine a light onto something so prevalent in our society and is seemingly going ignored by the powers that be.

Joseph talked about a 4th novel, but one that is not necessarily crime fiction and not part of the Aidan Waits series. Joseph said with Aidan being so complex and having a dark past, it was important for him to have a break from the character and I’m inclined to agree. I am yet to read ‘The Sleepwalker’ but the early reviews I have read have talked about how this book is his best one yet with some unbelievable moments. As much as I love Aidan Waits, I feel that Joseph has enough skill to pen something other than crime fiction, and know it would still be an equally compelling read.

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It was a fantastic evening, from a very humble, wonderful and talented author. I cannot wait to read ‘The Sleepwalker’ and cannot wait to see what else Joseph has in store with his writing career. This guy’s going places and I implore you to check out his work. You will not be disappointed.  I will be posting a review of his new book on the blog once I’ve read it.

Happy reading folks.

G.
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Love in the Time of Cholera – A Review

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I worked a lot during February, I was even working on Valentine’s Day. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind work at all, I happen to really love my job, nor did I mind working on Valentine’s Day. I’ve always been a firm believer that it’s just another day and if you love someone that much you shouldn’t need that one day to validate it or say it. Anyway, I digress, I went to Waterstone’s (other book shops available) a few days before and saw that they was doing a “Blind Date with a Book” and I figured as I’d be working and alone that I should play along.

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All the books were packaged in red paper and tied with brown string, a slight synopsis of the book inside, written elegantly on a brown tag with the price. I spent lots of time mulling over the choices but picked one out that I kept going back to. When I got home, I put it to one side and promised that after my 16 hour day in studio I’d open it up. Sure enough Tuesday 14th February arrived, the penultimate day of filming, it had been a long week, but I was trying to stay positive, just a few more days and then I had some time off to catch up on sleep and let my hair down. As luck would have it, it ended up being a really great day…I spent most of the day laughing, largely down to the company I was in that day. I went home feeling good, a smile on my face and after taking a quick shower I pulled the book onto my lap and tore the paper off. It was like Christmas, only with a gift I’d bought myself. And there it was. A book I had picked up MANY times previously but never bought, I smiled again.

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I have mentioned previously how passion is important, passion ignites the soul, makes your eyes shine brighter, and puts a fire in your belly. I ended up having a conversation with an amazing person about books in April and they mentioned this one specifically. Their passion came across to me so clearly that it was tangible, even though the conversation took place via WhatsApp. I swore to myself that when I got home that evening I would start reading the book, and that’s exactly what I did.

The style of writing was so accessible and beautiful that it was hard not to fall in love with it very early on, with Marquez using language so perfectly that was easy to envisage the people, the surroundings, the feelings. I felt myself following Florentino and urging him on, holding my breath and feeling his anguish as he waited for Fermina to reply. I melted at the romance, the declarations of love making me sigh and press my head against the tram window on my commute to work. The book spoke to my hopelessly, romantic soul and I was hooked.

My heart broke when Fermina returned and rejected Florentino and yet I remained hopeful that all would be okay, it had to be okay. Learning how the two lived over the years, separately yet still tied to one another, Florentino in his promise to never let go of his love for Fermina, Fermina with the ghosts of memories of Florentino sat in the park. Gabriel Garcia Marquez penned something so honest about the anguish of unrequited love, but also about the power of the human spirit, to withstand pain and heartbreak and still remain so vehemently hopeful. He writes of the passion of life and love and loss and does it so lyrically that there were times I forgot to breathe.

Even the more sensual aspects of the book, where Florentino takes various lovers, were written with an understanding that most modern writers tend to lack. I am a stupid, hopeless romantic and this book touched me. Entirely quotable passages that made me dog ear pages so that I could re-read them, tracing my fingers over the page to make sure I hadn’t dreamed them. This book is more than about love, it’s about the power of love, passion, the power of the human spirit, the courage to keep on going and to always keep hope. It’s made me crave for a simpler time, for more open communication and for less negative stigma attached to matters of the heart. Love is frowned upon and given negative connotations, like the advancement of technology, the world has become cold and demanding. Everything has to be instant. But sincerely why isn’t it ok to pen a love letter and post it? The excitement of receiving something you wasn’t expecting, a letter written in ink by the very hand you long to hold. I’ve never personally received a love letter, but the idea is so romantic to me.

This book awoken my soul and stoked the fire in my heart. A truly beautiful novel that will make you realise the importance of happiness and taking chances.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

“Sometimes their letters were soaked by rain, soiled by mud, torn by adversity, and some were lost for a variety of reasons, but they always found a way to be in touch with each other again.”

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Happy reading.

G.
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The Luckiest Girl Alive – A Review

The Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll.

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As some of you know who follow my blog, I run a monthly Book Club and it’s been a good four months since we had something (in my opinion) that has captured my interest and kept me turning pages. So I was pleasantly surprised with this month’s selection and even more surprised when I started reading it and didn’t roll my eyes or give up twenty pages in.

This book first came onto my radar through Instagram last year believe it or not when Sarah Michelle Gellar (I’m a Buffy fangirl so of course I follow her) and Reese Witherspoon couldn’t stop gushing about it. I kept meaning to pick it up but just never got round to it, so it seemed that serendipity played a hand somewhere.

It follows the story of  Ani FaNelli a stylish and sophisticated woman who seems to have the perfect life. An amazing career, respect from her peers, a handsome fiance and a glamorous wedding to look forward to. But beneath the shimmery surface is a darkness. A past that Ani has tried to distance herself from through years of practice, but as the date fast approaches to participate in a documentary about that very past, Ani begins to fray at the edges.

I’ll admit Jessica’s writing of Ani certainly kept me intrigued and guessing, she was always teetering on the edge. On the edge of what I couldn’t tell you, but the book seemed to be building to a pivotal moment. Fortunately there were quite a few moments like this in the book. *SPOILER ALERT* Perhaps it’s because I’m a woman but when it reached the part in the story when Ani recalls the rape at the hands of three boys, I wasn’t surprised, because I could see it building up to that, I could sense the uncomfortableness and danger. It was dealt with well by the author, it reminded me of reading Louise O’Neill’s 2015 novel ‘Asking for It’ I don’t think I’ve read anything so powerful, emotive and raw that deals with rape and life after that and it’s effect on the victim. Things like this are important for a YA audience and beyond, so I’m glad the author acknowledged them here too.

What did come as a surprise was the way Ani dealt with it, and the way she continued to try and ingratiate herself to her attackers. Later on in the book one of the boys tries to attack her again only this time it seems like she will no longer be part of the clique. She confides in her friend Arthur who seems to be her only protector at the school. But as I mentioned previously this book has plenty of shock moments *SPOILER ALERT* So I was not expecting the gun shooting at the school, it completely knocked me sideways. The aftermath of that event and the way Ani dealt with it, made the rest of the book and her actions make much more sense, however it was after this point that the book started to grow quite convoluted, something I was hoping wouldn’t happen after being so strong.

However it was page turner for the majority of the time and there were plenty of moments that made me audibly gasp, I feel that there are things Jessica could have done to make it more interesting for the character and I think it could have ended better, but all in all not a bad read.

Star Rating out of 5: 3.5

Happy reading.

G.

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Bone Key – Supernatural Book #3 – A Review

Supernatural Book #3 – Bone Key by Keith R.A. DeCandido

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I’ve fallen for this show pretty damn hard, and like most things you fall in love with you want to learn more about it, absorb yourself in it, learn more about it. So it made perfect sense to start buying all the tie-in books. I used to do the same with Buffy the Vampire Slayer when that was on, I have quite an extensive collection and still continue to buy titles to this day. Indulging my inner nerd, a guaranteed way to make me feel better when everything else seems to be going so wrong…Anyway, as per usual, I digress and find myself falling into some weird hole where I gush like a fangirl (which I am and proud) anyway moving onto the book.

Bone Key takes place a week after A Very Supernatural Christmas and sees the boys heading for Key West, Florida where ghostly activity seems to be rife. At this point in the TV show Dean’s time is running out before his soul is claimed by the Hellhounds, so there are some great moments of angst between the brothers, and of course humorous bravado from Dean. It also features their father figure Bobby Singer, which made me squee because I love the relationship he has with the boys.

The boys go around the place investigating, getting themselves into the usual interesting situations as they begin to realise the thing they face is hundreds of years old and will mean working alongside a demon to defend it.

Needless to say this is a great tie in and I really enjoyed the way the characters were written because they felt authentic, whereas I didn’t feel they were in book 2 (Witch’s Canyon) so Keith R.A. DeCandido did another great job.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Happy reading.

G.

A Fangirl on Fangirl – A Review.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

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The first book I read of Rainbow Rowell’s was Eleanor & Park (review can be found here) and I loved it, loved it, loved it. So many times whilst I have been waiting for the train I have perused the bookshelves of WHSmith’s (other book shops available) and so many times I picked up Fangirl, read the blurb, stroked the cover, smelt the pages (do not judge me) and put it back, until one day I just bought it.

This year I was fortunate enough to get a week’s holiday in Cornwall (which is probably one of the most beautiful places in the UK) and I decided to read Fangirl whilst there, on the beach and just see how much I could relate to it. You see, you may not think it to look at me, and it’s not something that I tend to publicise but for once I am going to have the strength to admit that I am a FANGIRL. Not a fangirl that just buys the merch or never misses an episode/book/film but an actual fangirl that writes…you know…fanfiction! Yes, that’s me!

I post my stories under a pseudonym in a secret place away from prying eyes of the general public and by general public I mean family/friends/work colleagues. Writing fic gives me so much life, it helps me breathe and deal with the trickier aspects of my anxiety. Being able to escape into a world of much beloved characters and manipulate them to act out my stories, my thoughts, my ideas just makes me breathe in a way I can’t even describe. So I could REALLY relate to Cath and this book, like in ridiculous way. I gushed about it so much to poor Rainbow Rowell on twitter that I’m surprised she didn’t block me!

Anyway I digress, back to the book. Fangirl follows the story of twins Cath and Wren who are heading off to college, but Wren surprises Cath by saying she want’s do her own thing, something Cath can’t quite wrap her head around considering they’re usually pretty inseparable. Throw into the mix Cath’s worries about her father being alone, Cath’s anxieties about having to live with a stranger and the general day to day worries that going to college throws up and you have one hell of a story.

The moments in the book that really stuck out for me, were how easy and attached Cath felt to her writing (have I mentioned how easy I could relate) the moments where she felt hurt and conflicted by Wren’s behaviour and I just LOVED Levi (like seriously I think he’s the first literary fiction character in a LONG time that I have fallen in love) **SPOILER ALERT HERE** The way Rainbow Rowell wrote the first kiss between Cath and Levi made me melt into a puddle, it was just so…perfect and honest.

I did adore this book, truly. It highlighted the internal dialogue anxiety sufferers have, the things we do to avoid certain situations. It highlighted a love and respect for fanfiction which, I feel, tends to get laughed at and criticised by most people, which is another reason I could relate to Cath being reluctant to be open about writing it. The relationships were sincere and believable and some of themes like parental abandonment were dealt with perfectly. Sometimes, just sometimes a book comes along that speaks to you on a whole new level, and for me, this was that book.

Thank Rainbow, I found my passion for fic writing came back after reading this.

Star Rating out of 5: 5

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“There are other people on the Internet. It’s awesome. You get all the benefits of ‘other people’ without the body odor and the eye contact.” 

Happy reading!

Georgina

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Witch’s Canyon – Supernatural Book #2 – A Review

Supernatural Book #2 – Witch’s Canyon by Jeff Mariotte

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I have to say I much preferred the story of Witch’s Canyon over that of Nevermore. The boys are visiting a small ranch land close to the Grand Canyon to investigate (and hopefully prevent) a murder spree that seems to occur every forty years.

I really loved the setting of the book, the small scale of the town only added to the feeling of isolation. There was also added intensity as the boys race against time to solve the mystery behind what’s causing the killings before a huge shopping mall is opened, all those people in such a confined space just screams body count.

As the days pass, people in the town are being picked off by a deadly horde of spirits (both animal and human) and pretty soon the local Sheriff realises that the Winchesters are the towns best hope against what is happening. That being said, I don’t think Dean and Sam jumped off the page enough in this book and some of the characterizations were a little off.

Star Rating out of 5: 4.5

Happy reading!

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