Saturday, 22 June 2013

Book review: 31 Dream Street - Lisa Jewell

31 Dream Street
The blurb.
Who lives in a house like this?

An Air Hostess. A Teenager. A Wild-Haired Recluse. A Rock Chick. An Old Man. A Human Chameleon.

Leah is fascinated by the strange mix of people living across the street from her at 31 Silversmith Road. She'd give anything to find out more about them, so when their reclusive landlord approaches her unexpectedly to ask for some advice, Leah is more than willing to help.

Toby is a failed poet and incurable romantic. For fifteen years he has lived happily in his rambling house filled with waifs and strays, until a quiet tragedy and an unwelcome letter force him to admit that it is time to move on. But how will he persuade his tenants to move on? His house is their refuge. Are they ready to face the real world?
Together, Leah and Toby must help the misfits at no. 31 to grow up and move out, but in doing so can they also make their own dreams come true?

My opinion.
31 Dream Street is the second Lisa Jewell novel in my collection and I don't regret it. The cover put me off, to be honest, but based on the previous Jewell novel I read (Before I Met You), I thought I'd give it a shot, and thank god I did because this book is amazing. I felt very strongly about the different characters, good or bad and it made me giggle and laugh out loud. I loved seeing the transformation in Toby; Joanna is very intriguing and her story made me cry; Melinda is not my type of person but I liked how she tried her best; Con was easy to relate to and I'm glad he made the right decisions (about both Daisy and Melinda); Leah too was an easy character to warm up to and the way she "pushed" people was easy to forgive, as she is the perfect match for Toby. Ruby is the one character I did not like and could not relate to at all. A few of the characters had a difficult past to get over, but she just stayed selfish and immature and seemed to love getting other people in trouble or uncomfortable situations.
I don't think this story and it's "heroes" will stay with me for quite as long as 'Before I Met You' did (and still does), but I loved every page of 31 Dream Street, and highly recommend it.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Book review: The Red House - Mark Haddon

The Red House - Mark Haddon

The blurb.
The set-up of Mark Haddon's brilliant new novel is simple: Richard, a wealthy doctor, invites his estranged sister Angela and her family to join his for a week at a vacation home in the English countryside. Richard has just re-married and inherited a willful stepdaughter in the process; Angela has a feckless husband and three children who sometimes seem alien to her. The stage is set for seven days of resentment and guilt, a staple of family gatherings the world over.

But because of Haddon's extraordinary narrative technique, the stories of these eight people are anything but simple. Told through the alternating viewpoints of each character, The Red House becomes a symphony of long-held grudges, fading dreams and rising hopes, tightly-guarded secrets and illicit desires, all adding up to a portrait of contemporary family life that is bittersweet, comic, and deeply felt. As we come to know each character they become profoundly real to us. We understand them, even as we come to realize they will never fully understand each other, which is the tragicomedy of every family. 

My opinion.
I don't like to say this, but I'm afraid I didn't like this book at all. I just didn't get it. I didn't get the interludes nor the dialogues, most of the time: who was saying what to whom. I had trouble connecting with the characters too. The adults all seemed selfish and the kids really troubled. Luckily I did push through and I came to enjoy the last 150 pages (give or take). I felt strongly for Daisy and even Alex didn't seem so bad in the end. But it jut wasn't my story. Too bad.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Book review: Before I Met You - Lisa Jewell

The blurb.
London, 1920. Arlette works in Liberty by day, and by night is caughty up in a glamorous whirl of parties, clubs, cocktails and jazz. But when tragedy strikes she flees the city, never to return.

Over half a century later, in the grungy mid-'90s, her graddaughter Betty arrives in London. She can't wait to begin her new life. But before she can do so, she must find the mysterious woman named in her grandmother's will. What she doesn't know is that her search will uncover the heartbreaking secret that changed her grandmother's life, and might also change hers for ever...

My opinion.
What an amazing book. Loved every page. Wished it took me longer than two days to finish; such a wonderful story. It totally took me by surprise, it was not what I expected it to be, but wauw. It was (tragically) romantic, funny, exciting,... and it moved me to tears. A delightful mystery.
I liked Betty. I liked how she came to London thinking she would be the most important person, and I believe she never really abandoned that feeling. Of course, she got a big reality check, but she stayed confident, kept believing in herself and did pretty well for herself in the end. She didn't end up losing herself in the big city, she just became a different, better, more mature version of herself.
This will definitely not be the last Lisa Jewell book I'll read.


Book review: Billy and Me - Giovanna Fletcher

The blurb.
Sophie May has a secret.

One that she’s successfully kept for years. It’s meant that she’s had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world to stay in her little village, living with her mum and working in the local teashop.

But then she meets the gorgeous Billy – an actor with ambitions to make it to the top. And when they fall in love, Sophie is whisked away from the comfort of her life into Billy’s glamorous – but ruthless – world.

Their relationship throws Sophie right into the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy? And most of all, is she ready for her secret heartbreak to be discovered and shared with the nation?

My opinion.
I instantly fell in love with Sophie. She's such a lovely, kind person and I love how geeky she is. (Booknerds, unite!) Even though I haven't experienced any of the things Sophie has, I could still relate to her. I could feel here pain, her joy,... through the words on the page. That's some good writing! 
Everyone should read this. That being said, no one should read this in public. I cried my eyes out for a good 1/3 of the book. It's the perfect story. It's romantic, it's emotional, it's real. And most importantly, even with all the crying involved, it leaves you with nothing but warm and happy feelings.
(It also left me with a very big appetite for tea and cake ;-) )
Can't wait for the next Giovanna Fletcher book; what a debut!