Friday, 1 July 2016

Summer Days, Summer Nights, edited by Stephanie Perkins

Pages: 384
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Release Date: 17th June 2016
Edition: US e-proof, NetGalley review copy


Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom.

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

My True Love Gave to Me was one of my favourite books on 2014 so I was beyond excited when I found out that Stephanie Perkins would be curating another short story collection, this time about summer love. Sadly, I was a bit disappointed.

I loved pretty much every story in My True Love Gave to Me, but in this collection I loved 4, liked a few more and felt ambivalent or even didn’t finish the rest. There was definitely a bit of everything in here: love in all its stages; families and people from all walks of life; fantasy, magical realism, straight-up contemporary – and I think that’s what made it a bit hit and miss for me. With the exception of one story, it was three contemporary stories that I fell in love with. Here’s a bit more about them:

‘The End of Love’ by Nina LaCour

Oh my goodness, this story. Only the second story in the collection, but my favourite. Nina’s writing is utter perfection. It’s poetic, lyrical and so beautiful and I find it ridiculous that none of her solo novels have been published in the UK yet. I mean, come on?!

‘Sick Pleasure’ by Francesca Lia Block

This is a hazy, dusty, lust-filled summer of music and rebellion and I was completely captivated. I'd never read Francesca Lia Block’s writing before, but I definitely fell under her spell. I wanted to be in this story and the atmosphere was so entrancing – the warm, tingling summers that all YA readers hope they’ll have one day.

‘In Ninety Minutes, Turn North’ by Stephanie Perkins

This story is a sequel to the one she wrote in My True Love Gave to Me and it was so nice to be back with those characters. As I've come to expect and love from Stephanie Perkins, this story was sweet and swoony and utterly charming. I loved it! It made me want to re-read all of her novels over again.

‘Brand New Attraction’ by Cassandra Clare

This is the only paranormal/fantasy story in the collection that I enjoyed in the collection. I never don’t love Cassandra Clare’s story, worlds and characters so I wasn’t surprised that I enjoyed this story of a demon-run, dark circus so much. I loved the family politics, the deception and the magic -  I would happily read a whole novel set in this super cool circus.

Thanks to NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for the review copy.

Sophie 

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Blog Tour: Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Susann

Pages: 417
Publisher: Virago Modern Classics
Release Date: 30th June 2016
Edition: UK 50th anniversary paperback, review copy

Other Titles by this Author: Every Night, Josephine!, The Love Machine, once is Not Enough, Dolores, Yargo

Dolls: red or black; uppers or downers; washed down with vodka or swallowed straight – for Anne, Neely and Jennifer, it doesn’t matter, as long as the pill bottle is within easy reach. These three young starlets climb to the top of the entertainment industry – only to find that there is no place left to go but down, into the Valley of the Dolls.

Valley of the Dolls is one of those books that I feel like I've always been aware of, or its reputation anyway, and so I jumped at the chance to be part of the blog tour celebrating its 50th anniversary.

We join Anne in 1945 after she’s fled her small mid-western town to New York City where she secures a job in a talent agency. Anne is beautiful, charming and mostly unaware of her charms and soon catches the eye of a millionaire. She quickly becomes entrenched in the world of Broadway and its stars, but she remains down to earth and relatively sane in a cruel industry.

It’s no secret that stardom, whether it be film, TV or stage, can be a poisonous one, especially in regards to women. The fear of aging, being only respected and regarded for beauty, the fight for money and success and to maintain the body of a teenager are damaging and relentless. And so came the dolls. Their reliance on sleeping pills washed down with liquor was scary and it made Neely a horrible person.

Neely was truly vile. Nothing that anyone did for her was enough, she was obsessed with her status as a star and I hated her. So very much. Jennifer I felt sorry for. Her story pretty much broke my heart by the end – I didn’t expect such a punch in the stomach from this book but I got really involved with Anne and Jennifer. Anne’s romance with Lyon was also more heartbreaking than I had imagined! I just really, really wanted her to let him go and move on.

The journeys of these three very different women is so, so compelling. It’s juicy, glamourous, gritty and dark and I loved it. It would have scored five stars from me if it wasn’t for the outdated (and often offensive) language used when talking about LGBT people and the attitudes towards women and marriage. That really dated the novel and made me feel quite uncomfortable sometimes, but I do understand that language is because of it being 50 years old.

Thanks to Virago for the review copy. Make sure to check out the rest of the stops on the tour!

Sophie 

Thursday, 23 June 2016

#EliotAlong Sign-Up

I’m joining Bex from an Armchair by the Sea in a readalong of George Eliot’s Middlemarch!

This 19th century behemoth has been on my radar for so long it’s embarrassing, so I figure this is the perfect time to get this off my TBR once and for all. I’m still really quite scared of it – it’s between 850 and 900 pages depending on the edition – but knowing I won't be alone should help me through.

The readalong is being tracked on Twitter with #EliotAlong and it starts Monday 27th June and runs until Sunday 7th August. The aim is 14 chapters a week (around 130-150 pages) and here’s the schedule!


(This isn't official graphic for the readalong, I made my own to reflect the edition I'm reading from!)

June 27th - July 3rd - Chapter 1 - end of 14 (or all of Miss Brooke and the first two chapters of Old and Young)

July 4th - 10th - Chapter 15 - end of 28 (or the rest of Old and Young and six chapters of Waiting for Death)

July 11th - 17th - Chapter 29 -end of 42 (the rest of Waiting for Death and all of Three Love Problems)

July 18th - 24th - Chapter 43 - end of 56 (all of The Dead Hand and the first three chapters of The Widow and the Wife)

July 25th - 31st - Chapter 57 - end of 70 (the rest of The Widow and the Wife and eight chapters of Two Temptations)

August 1st - 7th - Chapter 71 – End

Now, that doesn’t look too scary, right?


Sophie 

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

#2016ClassicsChallenge: The Professor


Originally published in 1857 by Arthur Bells Nicholls

My edition: The Kindle edition! There’s not a pretty paperback edition, unfortunately.

WHEN I Discovered This Classic
I actually bought one of those cheap little Wordsworth paperbacks a really long time ago as I liked the sound of it, but I was too intimidated by reading a Brontë so I gave it away again.

WHY I Chose to Read It
I’m aiming to finish the rest of the Brontës’ novels this year and this is one of the three I have left. And the shortest of them!

WHAT Makes It a Classic
It’s by Charlotte Brontë! It was her first novel, but wasn’t accepted for publication and didn’t make it onto shelves until after Charlotte had died. It was inspired by Charlotte’s time being a governess in Brussels when she fell in love with the master of the house.

WHAT I Thought of This Classic
I’m going to be honest here: I didn’t like it. The only reason I carried on with The Professor was my determination to read all of the books by the Brontë sisters.

This novel is just kinda boring. So very little happens and the characters have nothing to hold onto. I don’t even think anything really happened in the entire first half of the novel other than William suffering under his tyrannical brother and moving to Brussels. And even then he just spent a lot of time recounting (largely uninteresting) conversations with the teachers he works with. And all in French! I know it was standard that those who would be reading novels in the 1800s would know French as well, but come on. I spent far too much time using the really terrible Kindle translator and it didn’t help with the reading experience.

There was nothing about him, M. Pelet, Mademoiselle Reuter or Frances that had anything to grip onto, to like or develop affection for. There was no drama or miscommunication, it was just there. Before I read The Professor I was surprised that it was a forgotten Bronte, and a forgotten classic, but now I get it. I’m not usually this negative about the books I review, but I can't think of anything I liked or even admired in this novel.

I have read that lots of themes that Charlotte employs in The Professor are improved and expanded on in Vilette, her final novel. That, I've heard is wonderful. I love this quote from George Eliot:

“I am only just returned to a sense of real wonder about me, for I have been reading ‘Vilette’”

I still have hope that I’ll eventually love something by Charlotte Bronte and my money is on Vilette. Though I have heard that Shirley puts the main focus on female friendship which is a rare occurrence in nineteenth-century literature. I have hope.

WILL It Stay a Classic
Though I doubt it’ll ever be as acclaimed as Jane Eyre, or even Villette, it’s still a Charlotte Brontë novel, so yes, I think it will.

WHO I’d Recommend it To
- Those dedicated to Charlotte Brontë.
- Those determined to read all of the Brontës’ bibliography.

Sophie

Friday, 10 June 2016

Hiatus

Some of you guys might know already, but I work for Maximum Pop! Books and during June I've taken over running the books channel while the books editor is on sabbatical. 

It basically means that I'm doing two full-time jobs at once - I haven't finished work before 8pm after starting at 9am this week!

It's intense and I'm still learning the ins and outs, finding my feet and attempting to balance my workload with the rest of the team and I don't have time for the blog at the moment. I'm barely even reading! I haven't even picked up a book since Sunday... That is truly awful for me!

So. I will most likely be away until the end of June. If by some miracle we get a bit less busy, then maybe I'll get back in gear before then. I do have a few posts scheduled and I'm hoping to still (somehow) tick off my book for the #2016ClassicsChallenge, but we'll see. 

I'll undoubtedly see you on the Twitters. 

Thanks for sticking with me, peeps!

Sophie x