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A book you’ve had a long time and haven’t read:

The Woman Who Stole My Life by Marian Keyes

The Woman Who Stole My Life
The Woman Who Stole My Life is about a woman called Stella Sweeney who is back in Dublin with a bang after a year living in New York and travelling the USA promoting her self-help book. There’s lots of twists and turns as the story looks back over Stella’s journey.

I must start off by admitting that some of the characters in this book are slightly unrealistic but that didn’t hinder how much I enjoyed it. I wanted to say that first and get it out of the way because it’s the only real negative I have for this book.

 I absolutely love the way Marian Keyes writes and I often find myself smiling or laughing out loud while I read (much to the annoyance of anyone nearby). I would be really interested to hear what people from other countries think of her writing because her sense of humour, in my opinion, is very Irish.

This book held my attention right to the end and as each chapter closed, I couldn’t wait to hear what would happen to Stella next. Keyes has a wonderful way of jumping from different stages of a story to keep the suspense alive. It’s not my favourite of her books but it still has that feel good factor and I would definitely recommend it as a fun, summer read. 

Rating: 7.5/10

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A book published this year:

City of the Lost by Kelley Armstrong

City of the Lost
I want to start off by saying if you have any interest at all in Supernatural fiction, you should really read Kelley Armstrong’s Women of the Otherworld series. There are 13 books in total and each one is written from the perspective of a different lead female supernatural character including werewolves, witches, ghosts, necromancers and more. This series was my introduction to this author and I loved them all. 

City of the Lost is the first book in a new crime fiction series by the author. It follows homicide detective, Casey Duncan, to live in a secret, off the grid, town where everyone has a secret. My absolute favourite thing about Armstrong’s writing is how she develops her characters. This novel was no exception and by the time you get to the end, you’ll feel like you know Casey Duncan. It’s a solid story-line with a great ‘who done it’ theme. 

As always, Armstrong delivers in giving you just enough information to keep you interested and wanting more. I still prefer her supernatural novels but would definitely recommend this read and will be looking out for the next instalment in the series.

Rating: 7/10

P.s. I know the topic is ‘published this year’ and it was technically published in 2016 but I actually read it in 2016 & never got around to reviewing it. 

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A book with a blue cover:

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling

Why Not Me?

Why not me is Mindy Kaling’s second book. It is a memoir made up of some comedic and very entertaining essays. If I’m being completely honest, I slightly preferred her first book ‘Is Everyone Hanging Out Without me?’, but only slightly. The first book was written before her career really blew up, whereas this book was written in the height of her ‘The Mindy Project’ and after her ‘The Office’ (US) fame.

Mindy exudes a kind of well deserved confidence, which she explains in this book, along with some other real life topics such as body image, dating and her career. She is intelligent, hard-working, and if this book is anything to go by, refreshingly honest.

Although appearing to have the same insecurities as most women in today’s society, she doesn’t seem to take herself too seriously. I particularly enjoyed the last section of the book where she talks about body image and how she doesn’t fit into the stereotypical Hollywood image. This alone shows how she should be inspirational to “normal women” and I mean that in the best way.

Although I have yet to watch ‘The Mindy Project’, I would mostly recommend it to fans of Mindy Kaling. That being said, it’s a good read for any determined young woman or girl. You will find yourself nodding in ,a and laughing out loud. In a world where the women that young girls are most likely to look up to are reality stars or Instagram famous, it’s a breath of fresh air to read the success story of someone who got there by working hard.

Rating: 7.5/10

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A book by an author you’ve never read before:

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

 

Not That Kind of Girl

I want to start by saying I absolutely love the TV show Girls. I don’t think there’s anything else on TV like it. I heard once that the second episode of a TV show tends to do worse than any other episode and that stuck with me while I watched Season 1, Episode 2 of Girl’s because 6 seasons later, it is still my favourite episode and I’ve watched it multiple times. It’s important for me to say that because I’m not going to be very pleasant about Lena Duham’s book. 

You’ll notice first of all, that normally my book review posts include a picture of me holding the book in question, but this one doesn’t. I won’t lie it felt like it took a lifetime to get through this book because I really really didn’t enjoy it. I finished it on a flight to San Francisco and I won’t lie, the thing that annoyed me most is that I couldn’t throw it against a wall when I eventually finished it because that might have startled a few other passengers. I dumped it back on my book shelf when I got home and haven’t looked at it since. So it wasn’t until I started writing this post that I realised I never took a picture of it and I don’t want to either.

I have read some short essays and interviews with Lena Dunham that I thought were brilliant and I couldn’t wait to get more so I was delighted to dive into this memoir. There were definitely some pearls of wisdom, but over all, the only thing it did for me was confirm that Lena Dunham and Hannah Horvath appear to be very similar, which isn’t a compliment considering Hannah is the singe most narcissistic character I have ever come across. One thing I will say in her favour is that it’s really refreshing to see such candor coming from a woman in a world where plenty of women are still taught to put up and shut up.

Rating: 2/10

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A book that was made into a movie:

Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín

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The third book I read as part of The Big Book Challenge was Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. I thought this would be a good one to read as ‘a book that was made into movie’ because I had just recently been to see it in the cinema. I really loved the movie so I’d hoped I’d enjoy the book as much.

Brooklyn is a romantic drama about a young Irish immigrant moving from a small town in Ireland to Brooklyn, New York. The story follows Eilis as she falls in love, but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a romantic novel, it’s much much more than that. 

For many reasons, this book didn’t disappoint. The first thing I loved was that it included my two favourite places in the world, my lovely country Ireland and New York. The second thing I loved was that although it was based in the 1950’s, there was still so much to recognise about Irish culture today. Apparently busy bodies are timeless.

My favourite characters in the book were Eilis, the main character (which is unusual for me because I normally don’t like main characters), Tony, the Italian-American who captures Eilis’ heart and Mrs. Keogh. Although I think I loved this character even more because of the brilliant portrayal of her in the movie by Julie Walters.

The only thing that let the book down for me was a piece of dialogue that really stuck with me from the movie. In it, Eilis has a conversation with Father Flood that goes like this:

Father Flood: We need Irish girls in Brooklyn.
Eilis Lacey: I wish that I could stop feeling that I want to be an Irish girl in Ireland.

I loved Eilis’ line and I looked for it in the book. I suppose if that’s the only fault I can find, it’s not bad going. 

I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is from Ireland, wants to read about Irish culture in the 1950s and the reality of immigration, likes romantic drama novels or indeed just enjoys good writing.

Rating: 9.5/10.

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A book “everyone” but you has read:

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

Eat, Pray, Love

Eat, Pray, Love is a memoir written by an American women on a year long journey to Italy, India and Indonesia in an effort to find what is missing from her life. It seems to me that everyone has read Eat, Pray, Love or has at least seen the movie so it seemed like an obvious choice for me for this topic.

I don’t think I have ever enjoyed a book and been frustrated by it at the same time, the way I was with Eat, Pray, Love. The memoir is broken down into 3 sections – Italy, India and Indonesia. Each section has 36 stories, most of which are really well written. I loved everything about her time living in Rome. It transported me to a time and a place and I lapped up her stories of learning Italian, meeting Italian people and most of all, eating delicious Italian food. For a real home-bird, there was a moment or two were I really imagined myself packing my bags and heading for Rome. My favourite character from Elizabeth’s time in Rome was Luca Spaghetti.

India was where my frustrations kicked in. I’ve taken a real interest in meditation lately and I was looking forward to learning all about the author’s spiritual journey. I found this section of the book extremely difficult to read and I think Elizabeth came across really narcissistic. There was a LOT of wallowing and feeling sorry for herself and if I’m honest the term ‘first world problems’ came to mind a couple of times. What salvaged this section of the book for me was Richard from Texas, who was a ‘say it as you find it’ character who often brought Elizabeth back down to earth.

The final part of the book took part in Bali, Indonesia. I learned a lot about Balinese people and how quirky the traditions of the island are. The purpose of Elizabeth’s trip to Bali was to find balance and it seems to me like the perfect place to do it. I hadn’t really considered it before but it is definitely on my list of places to go now. My favourite character from Indonesia, and probably entire book, was the medicine man Ketut. I loved his take on things, his unusual method of measuring age and his broken English. 

Overall, the writing was very good and the author has a great method of capturing the essence of a character. I would give this book a 7 out of 10 and would recommend it. I would just suggest you take the India stage with a pinch of salt.

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A book by an author you love:

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil

My first completed book on The Big Book Challenge is Career of Evil, the third in the Cormoran Strike series, by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. I’m a huge Harry Potter fan so therefore I’m a huge J.K. Rowling fan. I know what you’re thinking “Wow, that was quick. She only announced this challenge two days ago!” Well, we’ve been working on the list and choosing books for a couple of weeks now, so no, I’m not that good.

Career of Evil is a crime novel based in London. Cormoran Strike runs a private investigation firm with the help of his assistant Robin Ellacott. In this third Cormoran Strike novel, Robin receives an alarming package. There are 4 people from Strike’s past he believes could have sent it and it’s up to him and Robin to find out exactly where it came from, before it causes irreparable damage to his company.

I really enjoyed this book and once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down. I’ll be honest, it starts off a little slow. I had to persevere through the first 80 or so pages but once it got going, I was hooked. It was quite different to the first two books in the series but we get to learn a little more about Robin and Strike. I rarely like the main character in anything – books, movies, TV series’, but there’s nothing I don’t like about Cormoran Strike and Robin Ellacott and I’m an even bigger fan now that I have a greater knowledge of their backgrounds. 

I would recommend this series to anyone who enjoys fiction. It’s that simple. Crime or Private Investigator novels are not the type of book I would gravitate towards naturally, yet this series has me hooked. Everyone around me is reading them. It’s the J.K. Rowling effect.

Rating: 8/10

As part of my new year’s resolution to read more this year, I’ve decided to challenge myself a little. I love reading and get really engrossed in a good book. I plan to share reviews of the books I’m reading here. I’m teaming up with My Tiny Mind on this one so pop over there to check out reviews too. I’m not the fastest reader going so we’ve set ourselves 2 years to read 20 books. I’d love for other people to get involved. If you’re thinking of taking part, let me know in the comments and keep me posted on your progress or where you might be sharing it. You chose the books based on the list below and you can take them on in any order.

 Anyone up for a challenge?

The Big Book Challenge list