Mini Book Reviews / Open Road Summer, Bibliophile & The Summer of Impossible Things

Open Road Summer by Emery Lord

Who doesn’t love the idea of American road trips, especially with country music (old school Taylor Swift-esque)? Open Road Summer is about Reagan O’Neill, who spends the summer with her bestie Lilah Montgomery (aka Dee). Lilah is a country superstar, about to embark on a 24-city tour… and she’s suffering from heartbreak. Reagan’s here to help her navigate the world of singledom, paparazzi and nasty rumours, but when Matt Finch joins the tour, Reagan has to learn how to follow her own advice…

Open Road Summer was exactly how I expected it to be, but with sassier, not-so-perfect characters. Lilah aka Dee is super adorable and you cannot help but love her. Open Road Summer is all about the characters, and the musical backdrop just adds to the fun. Matt is everyone’s perfect Good Boy book-boyfriend; gorgeous, talented, flirty and fun, while Reagan’s there to shake things up a bit.

As much as I wanted to love her, I did have a difficult time supporting Reagan. She absolutely despises girls other than Dee – frequently making comments about their looks, and calling them “desperate” for having a crush on Matt (when she fancies him herself!) – and that was a real shame because I think she could’ve been a brilliant feminist sidekick. I’m all for characters having flaws, but it’s difficult to like a girl who constantly puts other girls down. 

When We Collided is still my favourite, but I’m glad I finally got to read Emery Lord’s debut.

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

I was sent a copy of Bibliophile by my bookish buddy Katrina because I’ve been working with the publisher for my day job (you can win a signed copy over on Caboodle!). This really is my sort of miscellany. Jane Mount is super talented – I have been coveting a bookstack print myself – and Bibliophile is full of literary facts, book recommendations, and bookshop spotlights, and it kept me entertained during my lunch breaks.

As one would expect from an illustrated miscellany, it’s packed full of Jane Mount’s gorgeous illustrations – on every single page, which I loved. But it’s not just about the pictures. Jane’s fascinating chapters are well-researched, well-written and incredibly up-to-date and varied, so it makes a great read as well as a beautiful object. I particularly loved the recommendations (Jane’s covered everything from dystopia to romance), the feature on bookshops all around the world, reminding you that they’re the best place to be, and the chapters on incredible book covers.

Bibliophile is the perfect book for anyone who calls themselves a bookworm, and I’ll be treasuring my copy!

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

“I think men that read books are the most attractive kind.”

I was fortunate to get a copy of The Summer of Impossible Things at my first ever Lush Book Club. It was a wonderful evening, full of bookish chat, Lush bath bombs, and delicious cupcakes. I was unfamiliar with the story up until the event – that’s what’s so great about the book club! – and it has taken me a while to pick it up because I have Too Many Books (as my family keep telling me), but this summer I was determined to read it. And so I met Luna, our time-travelling protagonist, and her sister Pea.

After the death of their mother, Luna and Pea head to Brooklyn to sell their mother’s house and learn more about her past. But what Luna doesn’t expect is to be suddenly transported to 1970s Brooklyn, where she comes face-to-face with her mother as a young woman. 

As a fan of a little magical realism, I fully got behind Luna’s time-travelling abilities. As a physicist, even she’s not quite sure what’s going on, but she cannot resist getting to know her mother, Riss. The Summer of Impossible Things is a cosy read. Luna and Pea are sweet, likeable protagonists and you really feel for them, and the difficult decision Luna has to make – should she try and attempt to change the past, even if it’ll mean she doesn’t exist in the future? I loved meeting all the characters from Riss’ past and Luna’s present – lovely Michael especially – but it did make me glad that I didn’t grow up in 1970s Brooklyn!

The Summer of Impossible Things is about “family, courage, sacrifice and love in all its guises”. It’s easy to forget that our parents had an entire life before us, and in this novel Luna is on a mission to find out what really happened.

“Stories are the only things that can ever really change the world.”

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Mini Book Reviews: Save the Date, Ready Player One & The Silent Patient

Save the Date by Morgan Matson

It’s no secret that I adore Morgan Matson’s books. I’ll add them instantly to my TBR before I even know what they’re about. In Save the Date, Charlie’s sister Linnie is getting married at their family home – and the house is filled with all four of the Grant siblings. Well, almost. Save the Date doesn’t just focus on the protagonist, 17-year-old Charlie. The spotlight is on the entire Grant family and we get to know them all ready well. As someone who has a small family and no siblings, I enjoyed the family drama (with brother Mike in particular), all the wedding havoc (complete with an adorable rogue puppy), and the relationship between siblings, in particular JJ, who is the joker of the family and is hilarious. The Grant family are picture perfect and the basis for the comic strip created by Charlie’s mum that has made the family famous across America.

But Charlie discovers that not everything about her family can be perfect. From conflicts that the press aren’t aware of to the pressure of being the youngest in the family, Charlie’s feeling the tension build. As with most contemporary YA novels, there is a romance, but it isn’t at the centre of the story. Will is the step-in wedding planner who aims to help Charlie save her sister’s wedding, and he’s completely lovely.

If you loved To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, you’ll probably love Morgan Matson, too.

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Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Set in the 2040s, Halliday is the creator of the Oasis, a vast virtual society that provides everything that the real world cannot. Upon his death, he creates a video announcing that he’s hidden an Easter egg in the Oasis. Whoever finds it first wins his immense fortune – and complete control over the Oasis. And so the fun begins when 18-year-old Wade becomes the first person to discover the first key.

Ready Player One is fun, fast-paced and filled with 80s references. As it covers an entire decade, it could’ve done with celebrating a few more women – female authors, movies, directors, singers, game creators, etc. I rolled my eyes when Halliday’s favourite authors were listed… male, male, male. Halliday didn’t read anything by Ursula K. Le Guin? Or Margaret Atwood? It seems unlikely!

Ready Player One read like a game walkthrough, which I found immensely fun (or, as I’ve just discovered, is described as a Literary Role Play Game), and I loved all the characters… Wade, Aech, and Art3mis (but no, Ernest, you didn’t need to tell us it was pronounced “Artemis”), plus Shoto and Daito. I’m so glad I finally got to read this cult classic sci-fi novel. I now need to check out the film!

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The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

I really do want to read more thrillers, but I find it incredibly difficult to choose one – I need them recommended to me! So when The Silent Patient was announced, I was intrigued. It looks set to be one of the most talked about books of 2019. In Alex Michaelides’ debut, Alicia Berenson is the silent patient. Her life is seemingly perfect. She’s a successful artist and married to famous fashion photographer, and everyone is surprised when she is found at home, having just shot her husband five times in the face. And she hasn’t said a word since. Six years later, criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber takes on the job of treating Alicia at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London – and Alicia’s case threatens to spiral out of control.

One of the reasons I read (albeit, rarely) thriller/crime/mystery novels is that I love not knowing what’s going to happen next, and guessing what the truth might be. I knew there was a lot of hype about The Silent Patient (something I’m unable to resist), and I kept on reading, intrigued by Alicia Berenson and her motivations, and the people in her life – who can be trusted? You’re taken on a journey through Theo’s personal and work life, not necessarily knowing where it is going or whether he’ll be able to get Alicia talking again. I would’ve loved a few more twists and turns throughout the novel rather than just one huge (although impressive) twist, but The Silent Patient certainly gave me the thirst for even more thrillers!

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Mini Book Reviews / Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Suicide Club, The Sun and Her Flowers & Milk and Honey

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

“I find lateness exceptionally rude; it’s so disrespectful, implying unambiguously that you consider yourself and your own time to be so much more valuable than the other person’s.”

How could I not read Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine?! It seemed like readers with all different tastes adored this novel and so, without knowing much about it, I jumped in.

Although Eleanor is not what other people consider “normal”, she’s a 30-year-old woman who’s competent at her day job, a Tesco fangirl (home to her weekly frozen pizza and vodka), and, minus the weekly frustrating phone calls with her incarcerated mother, she’s doing perfectly all right. That is, until she becomes friends with Raymond, the new guy from work. He’s a man-child and quite disgusting but they seem to be becoming… mates? And so Eleanor is forced to break her routine. Even if she refuses to admit it, she is lonely. Throughout the novel, we watch Eleanor open herself up to other people and discover that she doesn’t have to do everything alone.

“LOL could go and take a running jump. I wasn’t made for illiteracy; it simply didn’t come naturally.”

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is all about our quirky protagonist. There is an intriguing backstory to Eleanor, but it’s the present that kept me reading. Her life is often mundane and yet Eleanor herself is anything but. I’ll watch the adaptation featuring Reese Witherspoon, even if I can’t see it doing justice to this fantastic character who has the sort of “deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit” that I’ve never experienced before. Her story is emotional and brilliant and warm. Now that I’ve finished reading, I’ll miss E.

“When you’re struggling hard to manage your own emotions, it becomes unbearable to have to witness other people’s, to have to try and manage theirs too.”

Suicide Club by Rachel Heng

It’s so much fun delving into science fiction. I used to read sci-fi often, mainly the YA dystopia and post-apocalytic type. I love reading about societies that are similar to our own, but feature advanced technology and despotic governments – although I guess this is becoming more fact, less fiction!

“In near-future New York, life expectancy averages three hundred years. Immortality is almost within our grasp. It’s hell.”

As soon as I read the above tagline, I knew Suicide Club was for me. It’s like an episode of Black Mirror but much less likely to make you feel funny afterwards. It all starts to go wrong for Lea Kirino when she spots her estranged father on the way to work. She’s a “Lifer”, so she’ll potentially live forever due to her genetic makeup, successful career and covetable relationship – if she follows the guidelines, including no fresh food, no running, no heavy music. Upon pursuing her father, Lea’s eventually drawn to the Suicide Club, a group that rejects society’s ambition and strict regulation surrounding immortality. Members are set on a life in which they get to choose whether they live or die, when, and how.

Suicide Club isn’t a fast-paced, action-adventure novel. It’s a slow-burning exploration of Lea’s world and the society she grew up in. As Lea begins to question everything she thought she knew, we’re introduced a variety of fascinating characters, each with their own motivations. What would it look like to live in a world where people lived for more than 300 years? What if only some people did, and others lived for less than 100? Rachel Heng’s near-future NYC isn’t so different to our present, where luck, money and knowing the right people can get you far. Nonetheless, I’m happy Suicide Club is mostly fictional, for now.

The Sun and Her Flowers and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur

it takes grace
to remain kind
in cruel situations – rupi kaur

I have a funny relationship with poetry. Whenever I’m asked whether I enjoy poetry, I say “no”. It makes me think of studying school poetry anthologies, when I would’ve much rather have read a novel. And yet I’ve enjoyed Sarah Crossan’s novels in verse. I’d seen so many of my friends talk about Rupi Kaur’s work that I finally bought a copy of The Sun and Her Flowers whilst visiting Pages of Hackney bookshop with my friend Louise last year. I read it over a couple of evenings and instantly saw why people adored it so much. Even if Rupi’s experiences aren’t the same as mine, I could take the poetry as my own, especially thinking about loneliness, sadness and relationship breakdowns. A friend then gifted me a copy of Milk and Honey which I found less relatable than The Sun and Her Flowers but appreciated Rupi’s talent to explore moments in life that many women around the experience, from negative body image to abusive relationships. I’m definitely up for giving more poetry a shot!

“it isn’t what we left behind
that breaks me
it’s what we could’ve built
had we stayed” – rupi kaur

What I’ve Read / Everything Leads to You, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe & Editing Emma

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You was the last of my summer reads and I chose it over We Are Okay, a story that sounds a lot sadder and darker – I’ll save it for autumn!

I finished Everything Leads to You a couple of weeks ago and I still remember how film aspect of the storyline made me feel. I adored it. I love the idea of being a set designer like Emi, our talented protagonist, and Nina LaCour tackles every little detail. She enables the reader to really understand and picture the work that goes into set design, why it’s such an important part of making a film, and how fun it can be. Emi is incredibly passionate about her future career, but Nina doesn’t just show us the glamorous side. We also see the boring, frustrating side of the industry, from being a lowly intern and not feeling good enough to browsing hundreds of sofas to find the one.

Emi and her best friend Charlotte come across a mysterious letter penned by a movie legend after browsing his estate sale, which leads them eventually to a girl called Ava, and a summer to remember. Everything Leads to You is one of the few novels I’ve read that features LGBT+ characters but isn’t about being LGBT. It’s an important part of the storyline, of course – and there’s a super sweet romance – but it’s not the main part of the story. It’s all about Emi and Charlotte’s determination to uncover the story of the letter and a girl who discovers her past.

Everything Leads to You is one of my favourite novels of the year so far – beautiful, cinematic and a joy to read. It lives up to its stunning cover, that’s for sure. 🎥

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Even though The Loneliest Girl in the Universe isn’t out until September, I had to pick it up because people wouldn’t stop talking about it. I’m rubbish at resisting hype and I just had to see what magic Lauren James created this time.

I love a good space story and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe made me realise how much more YA sci-fi I need to discover. I obviously do not read/watch enough because I had to engage Lauren in a lengthy conversation about how time works. *facepalm* (Thank you so much, Lauren!). Romy Silvers is left as the young Commander of her ship after her entire crew perishes. But she’s also a normal teenage girl. She bakes, she writes fan fiction and she’s really good at maths. Romy has an essential job ahead of her: travel to another planet and create a new home for the human race. She’s all alone in space – and so literally is the loneliest girl in the universe – until she receives an email from a new ship that has just launched from Earth. It’s a boy called J, and he’s coming to meet her.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe throws up a lot of surprises. Romy’s journey on the ship is at times both exhilarating and fascinating, and terrifying and isolated. But it’s all Romy knows. It’s best you go into the story without knowing much at all… go on, it’s a long journey! 💫

Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person by Chloe Seager

Editing Emma features the word ‘masturbation’ more than any other book I’ve read. It’s crazy, if you think about it, because most of what I read is contemporary YA. The genre is supposed to be realistic. It’s supposed to tell stories of what it’s like to be a teenager: school, friends, heartbreak, family and everything in between, so you think there’d be more talk of sex. Go you, Chloe.

When 16-year-old Emma is ‘ghosted’ by the boy she is ‘dating’ (they were dating, right?! She didn’t just imagine it?!), she creates a private blog to write about the life and thoughts of this new heartbroken-but-refuses-t0-be-defeated Emma. It’s the perfect way to document the positive changes she’s making in her life, from finding a boyfriend who will treat her right to stalking Leo’s social media profiles. Wait, no, she’s definitely meant to be stopping that.

Editing Emma is a super fun and hilarious quick read, perfect for the social media generation. As much as I adore the interwebz – and it’s a huge part of my life – it was also brilliant and refreshing to see Emma rediscover her passion for fashion design after she’s grounded and left with no access to the internet. (Chloe actually wrote an excellent post for me on social media and anxiety). We could all do with taking a break from our screens once in a while, and Emma Nash shows us it can be done.

Editing Emma has been recommended to friends who have been ghosted by complete dicks, friends who have a love/hate relationship with social media, and friends who appreciate such frank discussions of sex. Which is most of us, to be fair. 👩‍💻

What I’ve Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl

What I've Read: Life As We Knew It, Songs About a Girl & Roller Girl
Here are three reviews of books I’ve read recently to get me get out of my reading slump – everything from survival stories to boyband lit and awesome girls doing sports!

Life As We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer, narrated by Emily Bauer (Audiobook)

I first read Life As We Knew It five years ago when I couldn’t get enough of post-apocalyptic and dystopian fiction. This time, I was looking for an audiobook to listen to on my commute and after a few failed attempts at reading paperbacks while squished on the train, a re-read seemed like the perfect choice!

I loved Life As We Knew It originally because it made me feel like I was surviving alongside Miranda after a meteor collides with the moon, altering the Earth’s climate, making it almost impossible to continue with life as it was. If anything, the audiobook was even more atmospheric. Miranda reading her diary aloud meant that I caught little bits of the story that I think I missed the first time – Emily Bauer has done a fantastic job at narrating the audiobook. It’s been 10 years since it was first published, but Life As We Knew It is still one of the few YA post-apocalyptic novels that had me thinking about it after I put it down.

Songs About a Girl by Chris Russell

I was introduced to Songs About a Girl at a blogger event at Hachette Towers, and this is where we also got to meet the fabulous author, Chris Russell, who’s an utter delight and self-confessed fanboy. He’s in a band himself – The Lightyears – and has previously written for a One Direction fansite, so is in a perfect position to write about the world of music.

I assumed Songs About a Girl would be told from the point of view of Fire&Lights – a hot new boyband – but it’s actually the incredible Charlie Bloom we get to hear from. 15-year-old Charlie is invited to be the band’s photographer after Olly, one of the band members, comes across her photos. Charlie’s a refreshing protagonist who’s simultaneously unaffected by the boy’s popularity and intrigued by their music and complicated friendship. Plus she’s being targeted on social media by jealous Fire&Lights fans; has discovered a baffling secret about her mother, who passed away; and is stuck between frontman Gabe and bandmate Olly and their curious conflict. (I prefer Yuki myself!).

Songs About a Girl was a fun story to read over the summer and I’m looking forward to meeting up with my new friend Charlie in the sequel next year.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Oh, I loved Roller Girl. I came across it during a shopping trip at Gosh! Comics with my friend Daphne and one glance at the cover me it was the graphic novel for me! Roller Girl is the heartwarming tale of friendship and roller derby over one summer, beautifully written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson. It perfectly captures what it’s like to be growing up when you’re not a child, but not quite a teenager.

Astrid is 12-years-old and does everything with her best friend Nicole – until Astrid signs up for roller derby and Nicole starts making new friends at ballet. I wish there were more contemporary graphic novels because it’s a wonderful, underrated format for them. Not only do we get a fantastic story, but are able to experience visually the pain, frustration and heartbreak of real life.

I love coming-of-age stories and in Roller Girl, we get everything from realistic confrontations with parents to what it feels like to be the worst at something you so desperately want to conquer. I also learned a lot about roller derby and feel like I got bruises from just reading about it – ouch!