I absolutely adoredSofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik - so much so that I bought the sequel, The Other Half of Happiness before I was even half way through the first. I opened the second book looking forward to visiting these incredible characters again, and the humour that is a huge part of Sofia's personality. And although there is some humour, The Other Half of Happiness is a very different book. Where the first was a romcom, The Other Half is more of a drama. And it was absolutely incredible.
Where Sofia Khan is Not Obliged was lighthearted and humorous for the most part, The Other Half is a lot more emotional. I think it would be unfair to say, "Don't pick up this book expecting the first," because the characters are still the same people - there's Sofia's mum making hilarious but inappropriate comments, there are Sofia's friends being absolutely incredible, wonderful women, and there's Sofia being Sofia, who who I just love and so wish I could be friends with - but Sofia soon finds herself in completely different circumstances, and levity is hard to find.
I spent most of the book with a heavy heart. Not only is she finding it difficult to deal with the revelation of Conall's secret, but she's still grieving her father's death, plus feeling upset and kind of betrayed that her mother has decided to marry her childhood sweetheart, when her dad hasn't been dead a year yet. I got to a point where I was thinking, "What?!", gobsmacked and angry and upset on Sofia's behalf, wondering how Sofia was meant to get past this roadblock, but as the story continues, things just spirals more and more out of control. I was reading with a feeling of desperation, so emotionally involved in the story, and hoping so much that things would go a certain way, but then the story takes a turn that filled me with a differnt kind of desperation, one of fear and uncertainty.
The Other Half of Happiness had a surprising ending, and yet maybe it shouldn't have been surprising, because it was realistic. I have thoughts, but they will be spoil the story, so don't click the button if you have yet to read the novel and don't want it spoilt for you.
(view spoiler)[ In the end, it doesn't come down to the fact that Sofia doesn't forgive Conall for lying and for leaving her to be with his son, Eamonn. It comes down to happiness. If Eamonn and his mother lived in London, there's not a doubt in my mind that she and Conall could have worked through things. But he didn't, he lived in Ireland, and Conall needed to right the wrongs of his past and be there for his son. And Sofia's choice came down to going with Conall to Ireland, or staying in London to be a part of something important, something that she loved and was passionate about. There was sacrifice to either choice. And sometimes, love just isn't enough. Because she does love Conall. And yes there's compromise, but when do you stop compromising and put your happiness first? I think she's learnt from her mother, how her marriage wasn't really a happy one, and now she's finally found a chance at real happiness. Sure, Sofia isn't choosing between two men, she's choosing between the man she's in love with, and a chance to actually make a real difference with co-founding a new publishing house, but when there's a chance at a fulfilled and happy life, even though it will be hard to be without Conall, and a life in Ireland where she will be unhappy... why should she sacrifice what will make her happiest in the long run? And there's no question that Conall should - must - go to Ireland and be with his son, Sofia isn't asking him to stay.
Yes, as a reader, I'm upset that things didn't turn out differently, that somehow Conall could be with his son, Sofia could start her new publishing house, and they could be together. Of course I wanted that happy ever after for them both. But this ending is more realistic. Things don't always work out in real life. Life isn't a fairy tale. And I'm actually happy that Sofia put herself first, her happiness first. I'm proud of her. Subtle feminism has run throughout both these two novels, but I feel it really plays its part here; love isn't necessarily everything, finding a partner isn't the only dream a woman has, and women should fight for and go for their dreams. I'm not sure that's necessarily the message of the book, but it's what I felt about Sofia's choice. A woman chose herself over a man. And I absolutely bloody love that. (hide spoiler)]
The Other Half of Happiness isn't the book I was expecting. It was hugely emotional and heart-wrenching, but all the better for it. I may have adored Sofia Khan is Not Obliged, but I love The Other Half of Happiness more. It's real, it's raw, and it's beautiful. And I will absolutely read everything Malik writes in the future. I cannot recommend these two books enough....more
I absolutely loved Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik! This book is such a breath of fresh airReview originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I absolutely loved Sofia Khan is Not Obliged by Ayisha Malik! This book is such a breath of fresh air! So funny and addictive, I couldn't put it down!
This book is at once no different and pretty different from other romcoms out there. Sofia is Muslim, and her faith is an important part of her life. She's a hijabi, she prays five times a day, she fasts during Ramadan. But there are other parts to her life, as well; her family, her friends, her job. She's just like the rest of us; she worries about her weight, she has to deal with well meaning but interfering family members, she's under pressure from her employers, and is trying to work out the baffling creatures that are men. Sofia is a Muslim, and she's a woman like all other women. To be honest, I think I related to her more than I've related to any other woman in romance/romcoms, despite our differing beliefs.
This is a romance, and with Sofia being a British Pakistani Muslim, there are cultural differences when it comes to dating and love. I found it amusing that Sofia was writing a book on Muslim dating, when this book itself is all about Muslim dating. She's just split up with her fiancé, not only because he expected her to move in with his parents (and his brother and sister-in-law, and their children) after they were married, as is cultural tradition, but because his parents house also has a hole in the wall, joining it to the house next door, where his sister and her husband live. Her parents are dumbfounded that she would end this relationship, simply because of who she would live with. She was going to be married, and now she's single. Sofia is 30, and single. Marriage is hugely important to her parents and extended family, and Sofia being single at 30 is not only odd, it's worrying. It doesn't help that her sister is getting married in a few months time, and will be moving in with her in-laws.
But now she's working on her book, and for research, Sofia has met a guy through online dating, and although they say they're just friends, Naim keeps saying things that are at odds with his behaviour, and Sofia can't work him out. Her close friends are also having relationship dramas, too. Hannah is in love with a man who is already married, and is considering becoming his second wife. Fozia is in a relationship with a guy who's parents aren't too keen because she's a divorcee. And Suj is dating a black man, and though she's not Muslim, this isn't something her father would be ok with. I loved the close relationship Sofia had with her girls, and how we got their stories as well as her own. This is a romcom, but there are people who are unhappy. This book educates readers of aspects of Pakistani and Muslim culture, but Sofia definitely has her opinions. She doesn't really think Hannah should become a second wife, she doesn't believe she will be happy. She thinks Fozia should leave her boyfriend and find someone who won't let their parents dictate to them. And she thinks Suj should just be with the man she loves and be happy, no matter what Suj's father may think. But at the same time, she can't necessarily voice her opinions, because these are her friends and she has to support them in their decisions.
I loved Sofia's parents, too, and how heartbreaking they were. At first I thought their bickering was their way of showing affection, but there's a lot of history to their relationship, and they're actually in an unhappy marriage. And yet despite this, they're still eager for Sofia to get married, because they want to see her settled and happy.
And the romance! I loved the romance. I have to say, I knew who Sofia would end up with as soon as he first appeared in the book. I was shipping from the beginning, simply because I wanted to be right, and then shipping as the story progressed and it all just started making perfect sense. And I'm so happy about it all!
I want to go of on a slight tangent here. I want to share something from the book, where Sofia's boss is talking to her about her Muslim dating book.
"'Can I be candid, Sofia?' Smile. 'It's an admirable way of life, really. No drinking, no sex before marriage, up at the break of dawn to pray. It's really very committed...' Sounded more like she thought I should be committed. 'But it's also a little tricky for people to relate. And what readers really want is something they can understand,' She twisted in her chair. 'Of course they want something new and unknown, but really it should also be relatable, you see?'" (p396-397)
This made me so angry. Because this is publishing at the moment. On Twitter, I'm constantly seeing how authors' stories have been rejected because publishers don't find them relatable enough. Yet Sofia Khan is Not Obliged is a perfect example of why this is such crap. Sofia is a British Pakistani Muslim, I am a white atheist, yet I found I have more in common with Sofia than I don't; I'm the same age as her, I still live with my parents, I'm single, and I may not suffer the same pressure from family to get married as she does, but I still feel like I'm not at the stage in my life that I should be. And just of being an everyday woman, Sofia Khan is perfectly relatable. Books that feature characters who aren't white, cishet, non-disabled, middle class, Christian/atheist are still relatable. And white, cishet, non-disabled, middle class, Christian/atheist people shouldn't be the audience publishers are thinking of - the audience publishers should be thinking of are people. All people.
But you know, although that quote made me angry, I was also holding a book about a British Pakistani Muslim in my hand that had been published. It was like that quote in this book was a little dig from Malik at those who think diverse books aren't relatable. They are so wrong.
Anyway, back to how awesome this book is... It's just brilliant. I loved Sofia, I loved her story and those of the other characters. It was an eye-opener, but it was also funny, clever, at times heartbreaking, but completely wonderful. I am so excited to read the sequel, The Other Half of Happiness, and see where Sofia's story takes her next....more
Rebecca and Ben have been together for a year, and they're perfect for each other. They're chalk and cheese, but they balance each other out, and they have never been in a relationship that felt more right. This is it for them; they're completely in love, and can't envision ever splitting up. Well, that is until someone makes a comment, one that reveals something from the past, and everything changes. A spanner has been thrown into the works of their relationship, and they've been rocked to the core. Everything they knew has been torn out from under them; can they get past this shocking revelation, or will things never be the same again?
This is a very different book compared to their debut, and I was a little disappointed at first that it didn't include the same awkward humour, but I think it was a disservice to The Night That Changed Everything and Tait and Rice to expect the same thing. It's a completely different story, and a wonderful one!
It's a little difficult to discuss The Night that Changed Everything without spoiling the revelation, which has an affect on the whole story. It's not your average romance, with obstacles getting in the way of a wonderful relationship. This was a wonderful relationship that has suddenly been shaken. What happens when you discover something that you're not sure you can get past? Can a relationship survive that, when everything you thought you knew has been turned on it's head, and maybe the person you know and the person they actually are don't necessarily match up? It's a brilliant look at a relationship when your Happily Ever After isn't what you thought it was. The Night that Changed Everything is dual narration from the perspectives of both Rebecca and Ben, and because we can get inside their heads, we know they have huge communication problems. Assumptions are made based on glimmers of each others' lives, and as they're not currently talking because of all the hurt, no-one is able to set the other straight. The assumptions just add more hurt, and it all piles up. It's frustrating, but it's also just really sad. If they would only talk to each other...
This isn't a book that is just about a romantic relationship, but also a story about friendship, and figuring out who you are and what you want from life. The title of the book refers to the night of the revelation, but really it could be referring to a number of nights for various different reasons. Thinking about the story arc in terms of the title, there are a number of points in the book where decisions are made by both Rebecca and Ben that affect the direction their lives go in.
It was really interesting to read about their lives as a whole, not just about their relationship and how it develops. Rebecca is an architect, and has her very first big project. As the story progresses, we see the progress of the cinema she's renovating, and how her life affects her work. It's a big deal for Rebecca, and something she's passionate about. Ben works in HR, but it's a job for the time being, while he works out exactly what it is he wants to do with his life. He hates his job in HR, but doesn't really do anything about trying to find something he himself is passionate about. He's always flitted from thing to thing - job or otherwise - without really finding something he loves or can stick to.
There's a large cast of characters who influence the two main characters lives. There's Danielle, one of Rebecca's friends, and Jamie, best friend to both Rebecca and Ben, and through whom they met. There's Russ and Tom, colleagues, ex-flatmates and friends of Ben's, and there's Jemma, the new receptionist at Rebecca's company. We also have Avril, who is Tom's girlfriend, who is one of the most annoying characters I have ever met. Each and everyone of these people has an affect on Rebecca and Ben's lives, and their individual stories. I have to say Jemma and Russ were my two favourites. I love how Rebecca judged her at first of being not her kind of person, but how the two actually form a close friendship with Jemma offering a lot of support for Rebecca. She's also incredibly funny, as is Russ, and they both provided most of the humour for the book. Jamie is also incredibly lovely, and in the awful position of being friends with both Rebecca and Ben, and is kind of stuck in the middle. There's no more hanging with everyone together while the two work things out, he has to spend time with them separately. Jamie is the one who has the most influence with the two throughout the story, and seeing how what he says alters how the two think and the choices they make was really wonderful.
The Night that Changed Everything has a really poignant and bittersweet ending, with a twist I didn't see coming. The story is wrapped up and concluded with a satisfying end, but it's just so, so sad that it took what it did to get there. What I love about this story is how realistic it is; life is messy, Happily Ever Afters don't actually exist, and relationships can hit roadblocks. This isn't going to be the story you expect, but that doesn't mean it's not an enjoyable and satisfying read. The Night that Changed Everything is ultimately an uplifting story, and one that makes you think about what's important in life. I loved it!
My Mum has been trying to persuade me to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for years, but it's been years sinOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
My Mum has been trying to persuade me to read Me Before You by Jojo Moyes for years, but it's been years since I read an adult romance, thinking I preferred YA. I did promise her I would read it - my Mum isn't a massive reader, nor does she cry at books, so the fact that she was imploring me to read this book that made her cry, well. I knew I had to read it. But I always had my own books to read, so years went by without picking it up. I recently saw the trailer for the movie of Me Before You, and it looked brilliant, and knew I had to read the book before I saw it, and picked it up as soon as I was able - to Mum's exasperation. Now, I wish I had listed to Mum all those years ago. Me Before You is an absolutely incredible and moving novel.
After losing her job at The Buttered Bun cafe, Lou Clark is struggling to find a job she can stick at - she just isn't cut out for working at the chicken factory. Her adviser at the Job Centre suggests she become a carer for a quadriplegic. Lou is unsure, but there are very few options she's willing to try. And so she meets Will Traynor, who was injured in a motorbike accident two years ago. Will used to have a go-getter lifestyle; he climbed mountains, he bungee jumped, he lived life to the full. Now, he's paralysed from the neck down, apart from some movement in one of his hands, and requires help for everything, and he hates it. He has Nathan, his nurse, to see to his medical needs, but Camilla Traynor, his mother, has hired Lou to be Will's companion, to prepare his meals and feed him. The next six months will see Will and Lou change each other in ways neither of them expected.
I cannot even begin to tell you how much I adored this book! I absolutely loved Lou. Despite wanting to read the book before seeing the movie, I was still a little unsure as to whether I would enjoy it. As I said, I thought I preferred YA. But as soon as Lou started narrating, I knew I was going to love this book, even if just for her. She's kind of zany, wearing strange, bright coloured clothing and shoes. She lives in her small little town, still at home with her family despite being 26, and was quite content with her little life working in the cafe. She's been with her boyfriend Patrick for seven years, and is happily breezing through life. She's not ambitious in the sense that she doesn't feel her life is wanting. She's perfectly happy with the life she has, and was such a breath of fresh air! She's optimistic and positive, and the kind of person who finds something wonderful in the ordinary, always cheerful and chatty, and in that sense I found myself really relating to her. We're not exactly alike, but I could see parts of myself in Lou.
Will is such a fantastic character. At first, he has a serious attitude problem - but it's understandable. He is rude to Lou, acting superior and making her feel stupid. He quite obviously does not want her around. He doesn't expect her to stick up for herself though, and is surprised by her calling him out on his crap, and begins to thaw a little. As he warms to Lou, I warmed to him. He's not a happy guy, he doesn't like the way his life has panned out, and he's so angry and so miserable. But he still has a sense of humour, and maybe because of his circumstances, or just because of who Lou is, he encourages and pushes her to want more from her life, to experience more. Although Lou is quite happy with her life, Will shows her how there is so much more to the world than just their little town. And Lou tries so hard to bring a smile to his face. She organises so many outings and things she thinks he'll enjoy, rather than him staying stuck in his annexe, seeing nothing more than the four walls. She shows him that he can find some happiness again.
I don't want to say too much more because I don't want to spoil the story (though is there anyone who doesn't know the general gist of the story?), but I absolutely loved this book. It's incredible. It's as inspiring as it is completely heartbreaking. I simultaneously wanted to curl into a ball and cry until there were no tears left, and also go out and see the world and experience life. I was completely swept away by Will and Lou's story, by how their relationship develops, and I was completely hooked, desperate to know exactly how it would end. I finished Me Before You feeling depleted. My heart was hurting, and I was all out of emotion. But I also finished with so many thoughts, just wanting to talk about it, the subject matter, how this specific story ended. Me Before You is a hard but beautiful, thoughtprovoking and inspiring read, and I absolutely cannot recommend it enough. And I will most definitely be picking up more adult romance from now on....more
My best friend recommended Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh to me while he was reading it himself. HOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
My best friend recommended Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh to me while he was reading it himself. He loved the movie, and so wanted to read the book, and found the book to be just as amazing. Although I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels, I trusted his opinion and bought it for myself. Having now read it, I can say this is a seriously beautiful love story.
This is a really wonderful story of a young girl discovering her sexuality and finding love. Watching Clementine learn about herself is really sweet; from the first stirrings of attraction to Emma, her initial confusion, shock and disgust with her feelings and desires, and eventually coming to accept her sexuality and that there's nothing wrong with it. It's lovely watching Clem and Emma's relationship develop, Emma trying to help Clem accept her sexuality; the fragile, nervous beginnings; and plunging head first into their love affair.
Theirs isn't a relationship without it's problems. Clem does take some risks to be with Emma, but Emma doesn't seem to be fully committed at first. There is almost a selfishness to Emma, but also fragility and fear. As much as she helps and encourages Clem to discover her sexuality, she's also worried about being hurt. The actions of both characters, at some point, really caused problems for me, I had a hard time dealing with the lack of respect shown, but it's very realistic. Everyone makes mistakes, and I could sympathise with their reasons for the things they do. Although they get past their issues, they still have to put up with the disgust of others, and their lives are far from easy.
Blue is quite sexually explicit, but it's not gratuitous. It's not sexy, it's more sweet, with Clem finally allowing herself to feel and do what she wants, and just give in to it, discovering and falling in love. It's quite beautiful really.
A wonderful graphic novel with a beautiful story....more
Originally posted on Attachments and Landline by Rainbow Rowell, I decided I wanted to read more adult romance. I used to read quite a lot when I wasOriginally posted on Attachments and Landline by Rainbow Rowell, I decided I wanted to read more adult romance. I used to read quite a lot when I was younger, namely Freya North's novel, but somehow developed started to dismiss the romance/chicklit genre. Nothing sounded good. But Rowell changed my mind, and though I hunted for romance that appealed, I still couldn't find much. Then I saw several adverts for The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me by Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice on Goodreads, an advert that asked a question about falling in love with your best friend. Sold! Plus with that awesome, nongeneric romance cover, I just had to read it! And it was SO good!
Holly and Alex were best friends at school, each one secretly in love with the other, but due to a misunderstanding, lost touch when they went to uni. Eleven years has now passed, and when Alex moves to London for a new teaching job, they end up getting back in touch. Holly is no longer the carefree, impulsive girl she once was, but a PA who loves organisation in a secret relationship with her boss. Alex is different too, no longer the self-concious, almost-dorky teenager, but a sophisticated seeming man who wears smart suits and is actually teaching English! Despite the differences, the two fall back into their easy friendship, and as time goes on, they quickly become best mates all over again. They remind each other of who they used to be, and with the easy, comfortable familiarity, they're also reminded of what they felt for each other at 18. But things are so different now, there's no way they could ever be more than friends, right?
This book is so good! It's not just a romance, but a romcom, and I was smiling away to myself more times than I can count. I recently read YA novel Lobsters by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison (review to come), and The Best Thing feels a lot like Lobsters' big sister. Not only is The Best Thing told in alternating view points for each chapter, although the stories are completely different, there's a similarity with the destinct voices, the crossed wires and lack of communication. And the humour of The Best Thing is also a grown up version of that in Lobsters. And with the few odd flashback chapters to when Holly and Alex were 18, the characters from both books could have known each other. If you like either book, you'll probably enjoy the other.
I was rooting for Holly and Alex the whole way through. They're both such likable, humourous characters! There was a lot of me wanting to slap my forehead in exasperation as you see what each person's perspective was of an evening hanging out together and how they both misjudged where the other was coming from. I know some people dislike books where the characters just aren't honest about what they're feeling and won't talk to each other, but I find with this book, it really adds to the will they/won't they tension. With the flashbacks, you see what happened before, and although Holly and Alex may be 11 years older, some things just don't change, and you're devastated to find that old mistakes might be repeated. The last line of the blurb, "How do you know if it was meant to be... or never meant to happen at all?", really works for the book, because I was never really sure how the book was going to end. Will they fall in love again? And if they do, will they say anything? Or will they realise that what they feel is just nostalgia for the past, not something that means anything now? I had no idea! Obviously, I knew what I wanted to happen, but couldn't guess at how the cards would fall.
Although the romcom side of things is the main focus of the book, The Best Thing is also about second chances. At different stages in the book, both Alex and Holly realise they're not fulling the dreams they had when they were 18. Working at the school in the quiet town of Mothston, Yorkshire, Alex doesn't feel like he's making a difference to anyone's lives, and feels that going to work at a bigger school in London will help him achieve that. But it seems teenagers don't really care about falling in love with Shakespeare, or having a teacher who's their for the troubled kids. He's a fish out of water, and feels he's failing as a teacher. But this is his chance to make an affect on his students, and he'll keep trying. Holly used tobe freespirited with dreams of travelling the world and having an array of experiences, but finds herself in a 9-5 office job every day. Alex reminds her of what her dreams once were, and she slowly finds the desire to do those things once again.
Ignoring the fact that feelings are involved (especially as I didn't know how it would end!), The Best Thing is an awesome reminder of how wonderful friendship is, how extraordinary it is to have those friends you can completely be yourself with, who love you faults and all. It's a book that reminds you of your own amazing friendships, and has you feeling grateful you have those people in your life.
The Best Thing That Never Happened To Me is a really great romcom, and I'm so eager to read more by both Laura Tait and Jimmy Rice!
Thank you to Transworld Publishers for the review copy....more
I can't even begin to tell you how this book has affected me. It moved me. It made me think. It spoke to meOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I can't even begin to tell you how this book has affected me. It moved me. It made me think. It spoke to me on such a personal level, I don't know if I should even be writing a review, because my reading experience is clouded by all it's made me feel and question about things in my own life. But I am writing this review, because I feel I owe to to Rainbow Rowell. As a thank you. Because Landline is unbelievable, in the best possible way.
Despite the time-bending phone calls, Landline is a very real book. Georgie and Neal's marriage is in the roughest of rough patches, and it's something they just don't talk about. When Neal decides to stick with the plans to take the girls his mother's for Christmas, but without Georgie, it all comes to ahead. They still don't talk about it, because Georgie can't get ahold of him. At least not in the present. The emotions in this book - the fear, the doubt, the deep and beautiful love Georgie has for Neal and her children - it's so real, it's palpable. It's a Rowell novel, so there is humour and lightness running throughout, but as awesome as that is, it's the emotional side of things that really stood out for me.
The way this story is told, with Georgie thinking back on her life with Neal as she worries about their future, you see various points within their relationship. Almost like flashbacks. We see them meet, we see their relationship start, and their relationship progress, but not chronologically. It's awesome to see the sweetness that once was in their relationship, and even the moments of tenderness during the tough times. It makes the possibility of the end of their marriage that much more heartbreaking. These are two people that are so deeply in love, they just turned down lots of tiny, wrong corners, and somehow got lost. I spent the whole time hoping for them, thinking, "Pick up, pick up, pick up," whenever Georgie calls Neal in the present. Their's is not a relationship you want to fail. There is so much love, and it's so worth fighting for.
As I had, I had a deeply personal reaction to this book. It felt like it was written for me. There were lines that felt like they were speaking to me personally. There was an argument between present day Georgie and 1998 Neal that I often have with myself. From then on, though my life is nothing like the book, I related time and again to situations, conversations, thoughts. I took so much from it. Or at least it made me think and question a lot, but I've yet to come to any conclusions. Except maybe sometimes, you just need to change how you do things, change your priorities, and decide what it is you're going to fight for.
And despite the fact the whole story is about a marriage that is going wrong, I spent the whole book thinking, "I so want this!" Even with the hard times, the family in this book, the love between all four of them, is just so beautiful. I so want my own dysfunctional family (because who's family is functional, right?).
This review has not nearly even scratched the surface of how incredible this book. I don't think it's possible for me to write a review that would do this book justice. But maybe this next line will give you an idea of just how amazing it is: Landline is on par, if not better, than Eleanor and Park - and I completely adore Eleanor and Park. Landline is so, so beautiful, and I feel like I've been given a gift. Rainbow Rowell, thank you.
The Lover's Dictionary is a story of a couple's relationship, from beginning to end. The story isn't told inOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
The Lover's Dictionary is a story of a couple's relationship, from beginning to end. The story isn't told in chronological order of the events, but in alphabetical order of the words. With each word, there will be a memory or a feeling or an idea about their relationship sparked by the word, with each entry being from either one line to a page and a half. We know the nameless narrator is male, but we don't know the gender of the also nameless "you." The story works for "you" being of any gender.
I misunderstood the book, first of all. Half the time, it felt like the Dictionary was written after the break up. It felt like the narrator decided to flick through a dictionary, and write a memory/feeling/idea for each word that spoke to him. And with the memory/feeling/idea comes an emotion. The story isn't told chronologically, as I said, but each entry is written one after the other by the narrator - and the emotions jump depending on the word and what it sparks. So one moment is a happy remembrance, in another, there is such hurt and anger. This is how it feels. It's not so much a story, but as someone writing it all down, maybe as a way to deal with the break-up. At least that's how it felt.
Until the tense would break up, and became present. And for a moment, I get stuck. At first, I would think "Oooh, recent break up. Sometimes it's difficult to go to the past tense." But then you would get an entry written in present tense that is quite obviously in the middle of the relationship, and it would throw this whole idea out the water. The narrator isn't writing this after a break up. He is living his romance, it is a story, and each entry is a certain time within the relationship. It took a little getting used to, once I figured out there was no actual logical to the back and forth accept for the alphabetical dictionary entries. It made it easier to follow to think it was, as I said, written after the break up. But in the end, you have to just let it go, and accept it's not going to make any logical sense when it comes to time. It is all over the place, but once I accepted that, I really enjoyed it!
I have to admit that I had to read the book with a dictionary. I didn't know maybe half of the words, and without knowing the definition made the entry seem a little random. You need to understand the word to understand the relevance of the entry. But it's such a great book! Full of Levithan's usual style, with beautiful language and awesome insights! Loved it. One of my favourite entries:
These words will ultimately end up being the barest of reflections, devoid of the sensations words cannot convey. Trying to write about love is ultimately like trying to have a dictionary represent life. No matter how many words there are, there will never be enough.' (p120)
I can relate to this one so much, and not just about love, about any emotion! Oh my god, sometimes, words just don't work.
The Lover's Dictionary is a great book! A fantastic idea, a quick read, and quite a touching story. I loved it!...more
I loved Eleanor and Park so, so much, I knew, even before I finished it, that I would read**spoiler alert** Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I loved Eleanor and Park so, so much, I knew, even before I finished it, that I would read every book written by Rainbow Rowell from that point on. Attachments, Rowell's first book, was next, and although it's adult romance and not something I normally read, I just had to. And... wow. Simply amazing! I would normally give a summary of what a book is about, but the blurb does a pretty good job, so I'll just jump right into it. Attachments is such a fantastic book! It's funny and heart-warming, and just a beautiful, beautiful read.
Attachments is set in a newspaper office in 1999, Beth is a movie critic and Lincoln works in IT.. As well as reading emails for rule-breaking, Lincoln is also helping out preparing everything in case the Millennium Bug causes all computers to die. I studied Journalism at uni, my Dad works in IT and had to deal deal with the Y2K stuff himself. So I got this book. Despite everything being explained, I knew what a headache Y2K IT work was, and I know what a copy-editor, for example, is. Simply because I knew what I was reading about made this book so much more credible to me. However, no-one should be put off by the idea of journalistic terms or talk of computer work - none of it is all that heavy, and through the story, you find out what everything means. And none of it is the real focus of the story. The focus is Lincoln, Beth and Jennifer.
Attachments follows the life of Lincoln, a shy, socially awkward 28-year-old who hasn't had a girlfriend since he was dumped by his high school girlfriend at 19. He's never really got over the heartbreak, and dealt with it by continually going back to college, for another degree, another masters. Working in IT at The Courier is his first job out of school, and has moved back home to his mother's - as he was always living in dorms before. His older sister Eve is constantly on at him to move out and get himself a proper life; living at home with your mum, sleeping all day and working all night is not a life. In some ways, he agrees. Lincoln doesn't really know too many people any more, and is a little bored with his life. Reading the emails between Jennifer and Beth are a distraction from spending hours behind a desk with no real work to do, and only his thoughts.
We do not follow Jennifer and Beth. We read their emails along with Lincoln. Almost each alternate chapter is an email exchange between the two women. They'll be talking about their colleagues, or their work, generally making each other giggle, or they'll talk about more personal things; Jennifer's fears about pregnancy, Beth's relationship troubles, and feeling like she's behind everyone else her age. The two women are so fantastic; their personalities really shine through their emails; they're both incredible funny, especially Beth, and both have insecurities. They confide in each other, and as much as you want their chapters to come up to find out what's happening regarding something or other, you can't help but feel uncomfortable. Some of these things are real personal, and I felt like I was invading their privacy right along with Lincoln. And yet... it was almost like favourite characters on a soap, I couldn't wait for the next installment, and would have to remind myself that these women, within the context of the story, are real people, it's not something someone made it, it's their lives. And we - Lincoln and I - are snooping.
The changes that come over Lincoln, though, when he discovers that the new guy at work Beth has nicknamed "My Cute Guy" is actually him is so damn adorable. In some ways, Lincoln is still like a teenager; it's been so long since he's been with one, and to find someone finds him attractive - that all those emails about My Cute Guy were actually talking about him - he can't believe it. He has already started falling for Beth through her words - her heart, her humour, her honesty and sincerety - and to discover that she has somehow seen him without him realising, and actually fancies him. Well. It's enough to send his heads to the clouds. I am undecided as to whether I'm a little bit in love with Lincoln, or want to adopt him.
Attachments is such a sweet, beautiful love story! It really is amazing! I personally would have preferred a few more pages at the end, to see more of what happened once they had finally met properly, but it's still such an adorable story! I will most definitely be continuing to read whatever Rowell writes - YA or adult, those books will be mine!...more
So many people were raving about this book, I had to give it a go myself. And I am so glad I did. I fell inOriginally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
So many people were raving about this book, I had to give it a go myself. And I am so glad I did. I fell in love with the story and the characters as Eleanor and Park fell in love with each other.
Eleanor and Park is completely beautiful. Set in 1986 and full of retro pop culture references, it's a book I want to share with everyone. It's a story full of the sweet tenderness of first love, full of innocence, when simply holding hands was such a big deal. Is a big reminder to appreciate the small things, but also helps you remember the tiny moments of your own romances, the ones full of sweetness. I am completely aware of what a sap I sound, but I don't think a single person could read this book and not have their heart melted.
Eleanor and Park also tackles several serious issues. Both characters have problems with their body image; Eleanor is a bigger girl, and doesn't think she's attractive, and Park is half Korean, and is aware that his Asian looks cause him to stand out. The story also covers issues of bullying, poverty and domestic abuse. Sometimes it can be a little hard hitting, especially when it comes to the domestic abuse, but none of it overshadows the beauty of the romance.
Because it's the 80s, for our young couple, entertainment comes in the form of comics and music, specifically mix tapes. The two strike up a friendship by sharing the two with the other. They bond between the pages and the riffs. I love their geekiness, and how their love grows is just so cute and adorable.
Eleanor and Park is such a beautiful, beautiful story, and I now want to read everything else Rowell writes. With just this one book, I am such a fan! Cannot recommend this novel enough, it's right up their with my favourites! I will leave you with what might be the most beautiful quote I've ever read:
'The me that's me right now is yours. Always.' (p312)
ETA on 6th March 2018: I read and reviewed this book before I was as aware of problematic books. Being more educated on such things now, were I to read it again, I would find it hugely problematic. Eleanor, and the book itself, are racist. The way Eleanor thinks of Asian people, and how Park compares himself to his white-passing brother, and how he thinks there are no hot Asian boys, is really problematic. It's been several years now since I last read this book, and I've not re-read it. Was made aware of the problems with this book by Haxine's thread on Twitter, and I really appreciate her tweeting about it.
I was originally interested in Love Story because it mentioned that Oliver and Jenny are college students -Originally posted on Once Upon a Bookcase.
I was originally interested in Love Story because it mentioned that Oliver and Jenny are college students - or are, at least, at the start, and I immediately thought, "Could be New Adult!" There was something familiar about it thought, so I looked it up, to then discover I have seen the musical! As know the story, I knew I was in for a good read.
Harvard hockey star Oliver and music student Jenny are worlds apart; Oliver, a jock, comes from a wealthy family with high expectations of him, and Jenny is a classical music loving American of Italian decent from a working class background. They couldn't be more different, yet they fall in love. But their perfect romance comes to a devastating end when Jenny's life is tragically cut short.
This is not a spoiler. We find out that Jenny does from the very first line in the book, '"What can you say about a twenty-five-year-old girl who died?"' (p1). Having enjoyed the musical and cried more than I can say, I do think I was expecting more from the book. I actually turned the last page thinking there was more to come, not realising it was the end. However, for a book of 133 pages (160 in all with the introduction, about the author, etc), it was a really sweet story!
I really loved Jenny; she's such a strong young woman, so witty and constantly mocking Oliver, but with love. From the first time they meet until the very end she calls him "Preppie", and calls him out on all of his crap each and every single time.She has a great comeback for every remark from her husband, but the love she has for Oliver is evident in everything she says and does. Despite the fact that Oliver narrates the story, Jenny felt much more believable, or easier to picture than him, but this may be because I could see Emma Williams' portrayal of her in the musical in my head. I could still hear her voice and see her reactions - and having now read the book, I know she was perfect for the role. However, I couldn't remember that Michael Xavier played Oliver until I just looked it up, so perhaps that's why he didn't seem as real to me; I was picturing an actual person as Jenny, but didn't have anyone for Oliver.
I do think seeing the musical in 2010 before reading the book (even though I didn't know it was based on the book at the time - I believed it was just a musical adaptation of the movie) was to my detriment, because the musical gave so much to the story, extending what we read on the page, so I found it hard to get it hard to get emotionally involved in the book. Being such a short book, everything happens so quickly. In some respects, there's no meat to the events that we see, the meat is in the emotion between Oliver and Jenny. This means there were no tears from me like I expected - like everyone who knew I was reading it expected; my Mum, the book's publicist, even my boss at work included.
Despite not getting as emotionally involved in Love Story, it's still a fantastic little book, and one I know I'd enjoy reading again and again. It's amazing to see so much emotion pour out of so few pages, and it's a story that will stay with you. I highly recommend it.
Thank you to Hodder and Stoughton for the review copy....more
The basic premise of The Notebook is so beautiful there are no words. The story of an old man who reads to his Alzeimer-suffering wife the story of hoThe basic premise of The Notebook is so beautiful there are no words. The story of an old man who reads to his Alzeimer-suffering wife the story of how they got together every day in the hopes of bringing her back to him is so fantastically beautiful, the idea alone makes me want to cry. I have no shame telling you that when I first watched the movie several years ago, I was crying through most of the film and it have been my favourite ever since; it's just so beautiful.
Nicholas Sparks has this wonderful way of writing, where I think I would enjoy reading even if he wrote something where the plot was completely ridiculous. The way he writes is almost poetical, and the way he describes, for example, Noah just sitting on the porch in the evening playing his guitar - nothing all that spectacular - makes it sound like something so amazing. His description and imagery, I find, are just so calming, that while reading I feel like I'm in a dream-like state, with a sense of wonder over the smallest things.
The story, however, fell a little short for me. I characters didn't seem all that believable to me, the things Noah and Allie thought and said, the way they formed their sentences, it just isn't how people talk. They were structured, not automatic as they would be for normal conversation/thinking. And they kept talking about their love for each other, but I didn't really feel it. There was a lack of, well, passion.
It was a good read, a sad but strangely optimistic read, but it was fantastic. I was warned to keep the tissues near me during this book. They weren't really needed; I cried once, when a particular part of the story reminded me of what happens at a particular point in the film, whih never fails to make me sob like a child. It was the reminder of the film that brought the emotion, rather than the stroy itself. The plot didn't stir any emotion in me, it was the writing that did.
Great if you're looking for a quick read that is beautifully written, but not overly heavy on the heart....more