Those who follow my book reviews will know that I tend to stick to fiction releases, but when this gorgeous looking non-fiction title popped up on bookbridgr I thought it'd be interesting to review something a little different for a change. While I don't watch many beauty vlogs, and up until a few days ago hadn't watched any of Fleur's yet, the beautiful cover and promise of a wealth of lifestyle tips really appealed to me – and as someone who was not a dedicated fan of this particular vlogger yet, I was able to review the book impartially, which I think sets me apart from most people buying The Glam Guide in the the first weeks after release.
Made with a sturdy paper and with a luxurious embossed finish, the book looks glam, perfectly befitting its title, and is jam-packed with personal insight from Fleur and top tips in categories such as hair, travel and fashion. Each individual topic is clearly marked and begins with an introduction by the lifestyle vlogger and finishes with ten quick tips. In between, the pages are filled with lots of personal advice, anecdotes to fit the category, tutorials and even scrumptious recipes for juices and healthy lunches. The content within each chapter is well-balanced and concise, leaving plenty of space on the pages for beautiful photography illustrating what is talked about and even delicately drawn illustrations, which added to the glam feeling of the book.
The Glam Guide can be read from start to finish in chronological order to gain an insight into where to start on all aspects of looking and feeling fabulous – from the inside and out. This was the perfect way to read the book in my case because it meant I could review all content, rather than just selected pages. However, the best way to approach this book is like a real guide and so flick to the right chapters when you're in need of them. Are you looking for some low-calory ideas for breakfast? Check out the health and fitness category. Or perhaps you'd like to know a little more about wardrobe staples and what jeans you should get for your body shape? Then the fashion pages will give some invaluable insight. Some of Fleur's advice is a bit on the obvious side, but for the most part the tips within this book will be very helpful to her readers.
As someone who was not yet familiar with Fleur De Force, this guide has definitely made me interested in her and her brand on social media (after reading the book I have watched several of her YouTube videos and will continue to do so). She comes across as a down-to-earth, honest, kind and, most importantly, knowledgeable young woman who can really inspire those in their late teens and in their early to mid-twenties to feel more fabulous about themselves without the need of spending an impossible amount of money to achieve this goal. While this is foremost a book about beauty, health and fashion, her encouraging words – and even a dedicated few pages on the topic – also aim to boost the confidence of her readers, and that is an commendable accomplishment in itself. ...more
Aysel wants to die. Her father did something terrible in a fit of rage and she's worried that the same darkness is hiding within her, so she wants to take her own life before she can follow into his footsteps. But she's afraid of doing it by herself, worried that she will chicken out at the last moment and only make matters worse. So she visits Smooth Passages, a website for like-minded people, in the hopes that someone will post a message looking for a suicide partner not too far from where she lives. And that's how she meets Roman.
When she first sees Roman, Aysel thinks that he is an all-star popular kid in high school, someone who has everything going for him. But when he shares why he wants to die, Aysel realises he is just as broken as she is. The two quickly connect, not only over their mutual wish to die but also because they share a similar feeling of confusion, anger and loneliness. They start to feel closer to a person their own age than they ever have before and doubts start to seep in; can they truly go ahead with the plans for themselves if it means the other person, someone they now care about, will die as well?
My Heart and Other Black Holes was equal measures terrifying and beautiful. Terrifying, because the age of the internet has made it so much easier for young, impressionable and confused teenagers to find like-minded people to push them over the edge and even help them take their own life. Yet the story was also beautiful because it showed that even in the darkest moments of depression an unexpected light can surface. A light which cannot make everything better like magic but can show a path out; giving hope that the suffocating feeling will if, perhaps, not disappear at least become bearable.
This is an incredibly well-written novel, which is must be to be able to tackle the subject matter, and with such aching realism and sensitivity at that. I instantly deeply cared for Aysel and Roman, which made the countdown until the day they would take their lives together even more poignant. I was completely gripped by the stories of their individual struggles and their unfathomable desire to die as a solution to their continuous pain. It was heart-breaking to read, but for someone who has never been in that position it also provided a meaningful insight into how difficult it can be to crawl out of the feeling of utter desperation.
My Heart and Other Black Holes paints a brutal picture of depression in young people and shows how, when going unnoticed and untreated, this mental illness can literally kill its victims. Yet, while the story was undoubtedly harrowing, and was filled with plenty of devastating moments that will grip the reader in its clutches, it was an at times surprisingly uplifting and beautiful one too – and definitely worth exploring.
After reading a series of poignant but mentally draining adult novels around terminal illness, I was ready to be distracted by a light and fluffy read and Fish Out of Water perfectly fitted that bill. I admit that the cover initially did make this book come across a bit childish, but when I read the blurb I realised that rather than a middle grade read this was the young adult romance I needed to lift my spirits.
Mika Arlington is the daughter of two marine biologists and it shows; obsessed with sea life she not only works in a pet store during the holidays, but her entire summer will be revolving around her coveted internship at the aquarium. However, when Mika's grandmother Betty appears on their doorstep it seems that her amazing summer is over before it has even truly began.
Betty has Alzheimer's and with no money to take care of herself she has decided to move in with her son, Mika's father, and his family. The thing is, Betty doesn't get along with her son and Mika has not even met her until now – and for good reason too. Betty was horrible after her son fell in love with a Japanese woman, her racist profanities fractioning their relationship for what seemed beyond repair. And in her current muddled mental state, she hasn't gotten any better.
Suddenly Mika's summer revolves around taking care of her difficult grandmother instead of the fish at the aquarium. And to make matters worse, her sanctuary at the pet store is thrown in uproar too when the owner's nephew Dylan starts working there as well, who is, if possible even more stubborn than her grandmother.
Fish Out of Water was an utterly delightful read; the perfect pick-me-up after a hectic work week. Once again I was reminded to not judge a book by its cover (which, by the way, would've looked fantastic displaying just the title without actually visualising the fish) but instead let the blurb guide me, which was a much better indication of the brilliant story hiding within its pages.
Protagonist Mika was an instantly likeable and quirky character, one that as a reader you cannot help but fall in love with, even when perhaps at times she gets a little too caught up in her own issues to pay proper attention to her friends. It's not very nice, but it is very realistic in the life of a teenager – they tend to believe the universe revolves around them, after all.
Predictably, but not any less exciting because of it, romantic sparks soon started to fly back and forth between her and Dylan and even though I haven't been a teenager for a very long time, the descriptions of the bad boy made even me fall in love with him, and my heart fluttered for the blossoming romance between the two.
For the most part this was a charming book to dream away with, but author Natalie Whipple didn't shy away from covering some heavy issues that sadly still prevail in today's day and age, including racism, prejudice and social classes, to name but a few. It's harrowing that people still face such horrible judgements simply for where they were born and how much money they have access to, oftentimes not because of anything they did themselves, and I hope that excellent novels such as this one shining a light on the issues will urge people to be more accepting. After all, we're all the same on the inside.
Fish Out of Water is the perfect young adult treat for fans of the sweet romance novels from Jennifer E. Smith, with the added quirkiness of Rainbow Rowell and the emotional punch of John Green – so basically a triple whammy of all that is brilliant in YA fiction right now. ...more
The Chimes is set in a London that seems simultaneously set in the past – there is no electricity and technology too is far behind what we're used to nowadays – and in the future, as the world is hugely imaginative and slightly futuristic at times. This parallel London is different from our own most evidently in that people communicate through music and the only way most of its citizens are able to remember more than a few days back is by body memory; repetitive movements.
Unable to retain their long-term memories the people don't know what exactly happened years earlier, before the Allbreaking, but at least they have the daily repeat of Onestory through the Carillon to remind them of their history – the one according to the Order, at least. Their collective amnesia makes them ignorant to what is really going on around them, but in their naivety at least they are content.
Protagonist Simon is an ignorant farm boy like so many, until his mother passes away and he travels to London to fulfill her last request. He soon becomes entangled in a pack of runners that search for nuggets of palladium around the river, which they use to trade at the markets. Their leader, Lucien, believes Simon is different from everyone else and he is proven right when against all odds Simon starts being able to keep his memories, and even recall some from when he was much younger.
At a time where dystopian fiction is at the height of its popularity, The Chimes may technically fall within this genre but it was remarkably original and different. The musical way of communication created a beautiful backdrop to what was an otherwise horrifying example of a select few controlling the masses. And even to someone, like myself, who isn't quite as consumed by music, the lyrical descriptions were rich and exciting, the sounds almost leaping off the pages while reading.
I did find it a struggle to get fully immersed in Simon's story because it was hard to grasp the direction of the plot between the symphonic storytelling. The world building was confusing, making it a challenge to feel invested in Simon's awakening. If I was someone who gave up on a book if the first 50 or 100 pages didn't live up to expectations, I wouldn't have finished this one. Thankfully in this case perseverance paid off, as it slowly unravelled from a melodic whisper into a fast-paced masterpiece – not unlike the classical compositions from the musical greats.
The Chimes is one of the most beautifully written, lyrical novels I've ever read. It's highly imaginative and evocative and unlike anything I've ever come across before, or likely will again. However, the story was needlessly complicated, its challenging start distracting from what could have been one of the best books I have ever read.
The melodious writing was compelling enough to keep me gripped on its own though and if you are looking for something different among the current wave of psychological thrillers, young adult dystopian reads and erotica novels commandeering the shelves in the shops, then this inventive book is a challenge worth tackling. ...more
When we first meet freelance writer Abby she finds her neighbour Simon dead in his flat. While a traumatising experience for most people, Abby is surprisingly calm under the circumstances. Her demeanour is an instant warning sign to those around her, though to the reader it just seems like they're overreacting. Until Abby's mental stability spirals abruptly and completely out of control into a full-blown mania; one in which her emotionless state rapidly escalated from a feeling of optimism to one of utter invincibility.
I have some experience with people who are bipolar and the descriptions within this novel of Abby's feelings and actions were terrifyingly realistic, especially the parts where those who cared about her could no longer get through to her. Mental illness, and bipolar disorder in particular, is a very personal, internal struggle and it is heartbreaking to see someone you love go through this, knowing that they cannot see past the darkness that is clouding their perception of the world.
While the subject matter sounds like it would make for an emotionally draining read, and it certainly was at times, it was also hugely refreshing. Seeing the world through Abby's sometimes depressed and sometimes manic eyes made for a fascinating reading experience; one that was surprisingly humorous too. And though titular character Melody Black featured only briefly within the novel, the concept of the mirror world – although not quite as fantastical as I imagined – was fascinating; the parallel drawn between the sufferers of mental illness was, in all its absurdness, a clever one.
The Mirror World of Melody Black paints a poignant and achingly realistic picture of mental illness, but that is not all this novel is about. Abby is an intelligent and witty character and her fresh voice added a lot of humour to the story. Above all, her journey with its many ups and down was an immensely compelling one and when you are from start to finish glued to the pages of a book you know it's a good one. ...more
British Bea James owns a bookstore in New York with her best friend Russ. She has been together with her unreliable boyfriend Otis for ages and more than once has she almost given up on their relationship. Until it seems that he is finally ready to show his commitment to Bea and pop the inevitable question. However, when once again she is let down – and even worse, she's humiliated in front of her family – Bea has finally had enough and she breaks up with Otis.
Psychiatrist Jake Steinmann is going through similar relationship problems: his wife has asked for a divorce, and most of their shared belongings in the process. Devastated at the unexpected turn of events, as he still loves his wife dearly, Jake packs up his bags and moves back from San Francisco to New York, where his family is – trying to make a new start for himself away from all the memories of the life he shared with his wife.
When Bea and Jake meet at a party their conversation soon turns to their heartbreak and determined to not be hurt again they create a pact: they will never get involved with anyone ever again. Instead they'll relish their single status and do everything you can't do when you're stuck in a relationship; going to the cinema by yourself and eating all the popcorn, watching five episodes of a box-set in one go and, most of all, explore New York City like seeing it for the first time. But of course giving up on love is easier said than done.
I'll Take New York was a sweet read for a lazy Sunday afternoon. Bea was a lovely main character and I adored her bookshop, especially when she started to organise events there – I definitely want to have my birthday party in her shop too! I also thought that the storyline with her grandmother, who sent her gorgeous packages wrapped in hand-drawn paper and containing books with wise words highlighted in them, as well as letters describing her own heartbreaking love story set against the backdrop of the war, was a beautiful addition to the novel.
And Jake, excuse me while I take a moment to swoon over this perfect specimen of a man! Where I thoroughly disliked Otis and was really irritated by supposed best friend Russ as well, Jake was the knight in shining armour that Bea needed at a difficult time in her life. Even as 'just friends' and while dealing with the emotional devastation of his divorce, he was there for her whenever she needed him to be. And it worked both ways, Bea too was a great support to Jake when he was struggling with the aftermath of his wife's sudden decision.
While both main character were an utter delight, once again it were the enticing descriptions of the setting that made this novel such a stand-out to me. The pages were doused in a love for The Big Apple and reading about all the wonderful places Bea and Jake visited on their mission to rediscover the city made me want to jump on the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean myself. Miranda Dickinson really has a flair for transporting the reader to a foreign location, making this the perfect escapism read when you just want to get away from the stress and busyness of every day life.
And if you're already a fan of the author, you'll be particularly excited to know that the novel also features the two leads from Miranda's debut, Fairytale of New York. While I haven't read that book myself yet, the glimpses we got of these characters made me very keen to check it out.
I'll Take New York was a tad predictable on the romance front but this was more than made up for with the wonderful leads, the love for books radiating from the pages and the enticing descriptions of the setting, which made me want to return to NYC in an instant – it is the perfect feel-good novel to dream away with on a rainy Sunday afternoon....more
Sixteen-year-old Lalla lives in London, but the city is not like we know it today; ID cards are compulsory, without one you're not classified as a citizen and don't have any rights; food and clothing supplies are scarce; squatters have taken control of iconic places such as Regents Park; and Lalla lives in a heavily fortified home, only travelling outside to the nearby British Museum, which serves as her education outside of the regulated information she is fed through her screen.
Depleted of resources, the world has turned into a harrowing shell of what it once was, but Lalla's overprotective parents have created a sheltered and in comparison privileged existence for their daughter. Even more, her father has devoted a considerable amount of time, influence and money on creating a permanent escape, both from the horrors of the city and those who have taken charge after the fall of the government. While Lalla has overheard some conversations between her parents about 'The Ship', it is not until after a terrible accident forces them to flee that she comes to realise the full extent of her father's preparations.
The ship is a vast beast containing 500 hand-selected people and enough food and supplies to sustain the self-contained community for decades without them having to set foot back on the tainted land. But where for the majority of the passengers the ship is their redemption, to Lalla it is a glorified prison. Ungrateful to her father and the circumstances that dropped her without consent in this group of strangers, who look up to her for her legacy alone, she starts rebelling to her full teenage extent.
I've always been morbidly fascinated by dystopian stories and my love for the genre was amplified when I read the astonishing Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel early last year. I didn't think another title could come close to its awesomeness any time soon, but the incredibly gripping The Ship certainly evoked a similar feeling of awe while reading. Though the set-up wasn't quite as detailed – the world-building pre-Lalla's narration was eerie in its absence – its suggestive nature conjured up images more horrific than any explicit storytelling could've created.
Throughout the story, protagonist Lalla exuded a naivety and stubbornness so often found in teenagers. Despite the collapse of society all around her, her narration put her at the centre of the universe, rather than giving the reader a balanced view. Discovering dystopian London and the secrets of the ship through her self-centred eyes made the reveals slow – and more than once did I come to a realisation pages, or chapters, before Lalla did. For an impatient person such as myself, this made it a frustrating journey at times, but it also added an extra touch of realism to what was ultimately a coming-of-age story.
The strength within this novel lay within the endless possibilities of the ship and the sinister undertones to Lalla's father who planned and executed his masterplan into meticulous detail yet not once thought to discuss it with the daughter he was orchestrating it all for. And then of course there was the compelling dystopian future, which served as the bleak backdrop to Lalla's story. It's never defined when exactly the novel takes place, but the London as described doesn't seem all that different from our own, and the fact that we could be on the cusp of such encompassing disaster is a terrifying thought indeed.
Holy Cow is whimsical tale about friendship, religion and the human race as seen through the remarkably insightful eyes of a cow by the name of Elsie Q. (and communicated to her cow-author, American actor David Duchovny).
Elsie is a fairly happy cow living on a farm in the US. She spends her days getting milked, sleeping, eating and gossiping with her BFF Mallory about the bulls, which they feel increasingly interested in. Though her mum disappeared, she knows that all cow mums do so at some stage and she's otherwise pretty content with her unremarkable life. Until The Event.
In a bout of curiosity, Elsie wanders up to the farm house and through the window she watches a shocking documentary on the Box God about the meat industry, which makes it horrifyingly clear what has really happened to her mum and what will happen to her as well if she stays on the farm.
Elsie realises that the only way to escape her terrible fate of being turned into burger patties is to travel to India, where cows are worshiped rather than slaughtered. Several other animals on the farm – a Jewish pig, who refers to himself as Shalom, and a anorexic turkey called Tom – find out about Elsie's plan and decide to join her pilgrimage to escape similar fates. They don human disguises, practice walking on two legs and head for the airport.
It all sounds absolutely mad and it certainly is, but the story is also incredibly clever. Interspersed with remarkably spot on cow-humour and a heavy dose of pop culture references, Holy Cow provides a brutally honest insight into the human perception of the world and our privileged place at the top of the food chain. It managed to make me think and that wasn't what I was expecting from a story focused on a trio of farm animals on a bonkers mission to escape the barbeque.
On top of that, this is one of the funniest books I have ever had the pleasure to read. I gigglesnorted my way through the first few chapters on the train – receiving some interesting looks from fellow passengers – after which the story did became a more serious social commentary, but it never lost the charming, comical voice of Elsie. Who knew that actor David Duchovny could channel a cow so accurately? That's some X-Files right there....more
There has been a lot of excitement around the upcoming release of Alice and the Fly already and rightfully so as it's a beautiful, heartbreaking, insightful and most of all moving piece of writing. There were more than just strong hits within the pages of last year's Costa Book of the Year-winner The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer, which also delves into the struggles of mental illness as seen through the written word of its main character, and I predict this debut by James Rice will do equally well in the book awards coming up in 2015.
Greg is afraid of THEM. The teenager has obsessively taped shut every crack and cranny in his bedroom to ensure that THEM cannot get in. Despite his fear, and his otherwise excessive obsessive behaviour, Greg goes to a normal school and shares classes with kids his own age. They have noticed that he is different though, referring to him as 'psycho', and he doesn't have any friends. Until one day his eyes fall upon Alice. Alice who wears dark sunglasses inside and who, despite coming from The Pit (the bad part of town), is friends with one of the most popular girls in school.
Through a series of diary entries the reader discovers the story of Greg and Alice. It's a for the most part a one-sided relationship carefully written down by Greg, but the chapters are interspersed with transcripts from conversations between Greg's family and classmates with the police. From the very first transcript the reader knows that something terrible has happened, and it's only a matter of time before we find out that someone was hurt - or worse.
Greg's story and his everlasting battle against THEM slowly escalates as his diary entries progress into a jumbled collection of sometimes coherent and sometimes confusing thoughts, with lines between fact and fiction blurring with each passing day. The build up of tension within the novel was subtle but oh so very clever and when about midway through I feared what devastating journey Greg was on, I was already so invested in the hugely compelling tale that I found it impossible to put the book down - even though I knew its ending was going to be a tragic one.
Despite the size of the novel this was a surprisingly quick read; I tried to slow my reading pace down at times, relishing the words and the story they formed, yet I finished it in just a few hours. On the one hand, I was completely gripped by Greg's story and didn't want it to end, but on the other, even spending such a short time with Greg and his family, the inevitable conclusion already completely broke my heart and I can only imagine how much worse the impact would've been had I spent days in his company.
There's been an increase in commercial fiction novels which tackle the previously hushed-topic of mental illness and I'm glad there's now more awareness about this mostly hidden disease. Hopefully it will lead to a better understanding as to what a lot of people are struggling with on a day-to-day basis, even if it isn't obvious on the surface. Greg's story is just one example of how ignoring isolated incidents escalating into recurring symptoms can have dangerous consequences for all involved.
Greg's story was harrowing yet also innocent and it was beautifully crafted by James Rice, who really did the subject matter and his characters proud. It's a stunner of a novel and one I will think about long after turning the final page....more
Not so much a short story, as a little A-Z list of things which make the author happy. This would've been better suited as a blog post than an ebook nNot so much a short story, as a little A-Z list of things which make the author happy. This would've been better suited as a blog post than an ebook novella. ...more
I know Becky has a severe problem when it comes to shopping but I didn't remember her being so whiny, selfish and out of touch with reality. Shame thaI know Becky has a severe problem when it comes to shopping but I didn't remember her being so whiny, selfish and out of touch with reality. Shame that Luke lets her walk all over him and his feelings. If this was real life, their marriage wouldn't have lasted a week....more
The Heiresses is what you get if you combine Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game and aim it at a more mature audience. A tad predictable, perhaps,The Heiresses is what you get if you combine Pretty Little Liars and The Lying Game and aim it at a more mature audience. A tad predictable, perhaps, but Sara Shepard has a real skill telling immensely gripping mystery stories set in glamour environments and I for one am hooked. ...more
It probably didn't help that I didn't realise until after that this was a prequel to an already existing novel (one which I am not yet familiar with),It probably didn't help that I didn't realise until after that this was a prequel to an already existing novel (one which I am not yet familiar with), but I found these 4 four short stories (which apparently get tied up in the full novel) not very engaging or interesting. They told me little at all and were a bit of a depressing fare for a Christmas short novel. ...more