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Review: Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

 

eleanor_oliphant

Disclaimer: An eGalley of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I don’t think I can say much more about Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine than has already been said: this book is utterly amazing, an absolute must-read and I bought myself a finished paperback after I read the eBook (the UK cover is striking (get it? because it has matches on the cover?)). Safe to say, this book gets my seal of approval.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine follows Eleanor Oliphant, a woman who struggles with social situations, who forms an unexpected friendship with a man from work when they save a man who has fallen on the sidewalk. This is a book that balances sad and funny moments, and it’s such a brilliant and memorable debut that I can’t wait to see what Gail Honeyman does next. I’m also interested to see how the film adaptation goes.

This book has already won the WHSmith Book of the Year Award and the Costa Book Award for First Novel, but if you needed a push to read this, here it is. You won’t regret it.

annalsie

Review: Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History
Wonder Women: 25 Innovators, Inventors, and Trailblazers Who Changed History by Sam Maggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received a free copy from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

There have been a few books like this out recently, and I am a huge champion of celebrating women, especially when they’ve often been overlooked for their achievements. Wonder Women is one of the best books of this ilk that I’ve read this year, and there’s a few reasons why that is.

First, there’s great diversity in the women featured – so many different nationalities feature, whereas other books have been very US-centric.

Secondly, many of the women featured I haven’t heard too much about – it’s great to learn about new people who have been overlooked previously.

Thirdly, this book has a great voice – informative but also funny.

Finally, I love the focus on scientists and inventors, and the mini chapters about a career in the scientists.

Definitely one to check out!

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Spoiler-Free Review: …And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

...And a Happy New Year?
…And a Happy New Year? by Holly Bourne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ll hopefully write up about YA Shot in another post, but something really cool happened yesterday which was (kinda) unrelated…

I got my hands on a copy of …And A Happy New Year?, the Spinster Club novella by Holly Bourne. And I’m quoted in the back! And I got it signed!

Any of you loyal readers/twitter followers will probably know I’m a huge fan of these books. The Spinster Club Trilogy follows three girls (Evie, Amber and Lottie) on their separate journeys and experiences with feminism, mental health, and friendship. These books are hugely powerful with their introduction to these issues, and they’re so funny and relatable. These girls feel so real – they’re far from perfect, they struggle with their feminism and how they think they should feel or act, and it’s been so great to get to know these girls and their stories.

…And A Happy New Year? is the first time we have all three girls speaking in one book. Holly cleverly weaves a story where the girls react to each other in a realistic way, and their friendship in this book is far from perfect. This book is a little sad at times, because the reality is, their lives, and their friendship, is far from how they imagined.

I loved this as a story of the (often difficult) transition from sixth form to university, and how easy it is to drift away from old friends. I particularly enjoyed Lottie’s arc, and I think it’s important to show that things often turn out the way you don’t expect. Not to spoil anything, but Lottie is having a tough time with her new housemates, and I’ve personally experienced this – I think the risk is often higher in your first year of university when you’re living with complete strangers, but living with friends at university in my later years there was surprisingly tough. I also loved how the girls were all doing their own thing, and not all going to a top university.

This is the perfect book for Christmas, and the cover is incredibly beautiful – it’s a gorgeous hardback with a gold spine (and the book inside is blue!).

If you haven’t read the Spinster Club Series, get on it! I can’t wait for Holly Bourne’s next book (out 2017!) My reviews for the first two books are here – Am I Normal Yet? and How Hard Can Love Be?.
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annalsie

Review: Forever by Judy Blume

Forever
Forever by Judy Blume

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Forever is a story about a teenager’s first love and first time (having sex). Katherine and Michael are two older teenagers who meet, hit it off, and start dating. He wants to have sex with her, she’s not entirely sure if she wants to, but then she agrees and they do it. There are no horrific consequences – she doesn’t get pregnant, she doesn’t catch an STD, and she doesn’t die – and this is what sets it apart from other books depicting this kind of story (at least at the time it was published).

The story is a fairly realistic depiction of teenage romance – actual teenage romance without a paranormal element and rainbows and fireworks if and when the main characters have sex. There are scenes where both main characters acquire contraception – something a lot of YA writers leave out, because it ruins the romance of it all. This is where the book really excels – and why it is still a bestseller today – it’s realistic. There’s premature ejaculation and awkwardness and the whole ‘making-a-big-deal-of-it-all’ aspect of high school. Katherine and Michael are not soulmates (although they believe it at the time) and their relationship doesn’t even last the summer. Sure, there are people who marry their first boyfriend and live happily ever after, but it just isn’t the norm in real life (although it seems to be in YA). Michael’s had sex before, and I’d love to see more of this in fiction – real, experienced characters, especially girls. Every YA heroine seems to be an innocent virgin, and every villain is a sexually promiscuous bad girl – and it only reinforces slut-shaming and the idea that once you’ve had sex your personality miraculously changes.

The whole story is pretty progressive. Kath’s parents would rather have her having sex at home that god-knows-where, and her grandmother sends her pamphlets on all-sorts of relevant information – abortion and contraception. There’s a character questioning his sexuality and experimenting. There’s an attempted suicide, due to said questioning. It’s only disappointing that, forty years after this book was first published, so much of the story is relevant today. Teenagers are still having sex (shock horror), but there’s still controversy around non-heterosexual characters, abortion, and even just sex in general in YA fiction. In Kath’s world, there is no shame over having sex, using contraception, having an abortion – they’re seen as sensible, responsible choices. Unfortunately we don’t live in that world just yet.

Forever is known for being teenage girls’ first read of realistic sex. The topics involved (and the age of the main characters) suggest this book is for older girls, but the writing style is simplistic, and I almost felt a little too old to be reading it. The whole plot seems a little undercooked – at only 200 pages long, I would have happily read a book with a bit more padding. Some really interesting sub-plots are touched on briefly – Sybil’s hidden pregnancy, Jamie’s first experiences of love, and Artie’s possible homosexuality – which really would have brought the book into its own had they been expanded on. I think the tone and style of the book is really a remnant of the era in which it was first published – it reminds me a lot of the books I read published in the 1980s and 1990s, like Animal Ark and The Babysitters Club, rather than the high-octane paranormal fantasy romances that dominate YA today.

Ultimately, this is a book written to teach girls about safe, realistic sex. It more than achieves in that aim – and it’s a testament that girls are still reading it today. If it was a little longer, maybe those who don’t normally read, wouldn’t bother to read it.

I would kind of love to see a new Forever on the market though – a cult bestseller written today that portrays sex and being a teenager realistically. I’d also like to see a book that touches on the same theme but is aimed at boys – Forever is told through a girl’s perspective (as many YA novels are), and I’d be interested to read something from the other side for once!

(Also, my 2015 copy has a lovely design (a simple cherry) which isn’t as cheesy as some of the others and has red gilded edges)

Did you enjoy Forever? Do you have any recommendations? Tweet me at @annalisebooks or comment below 🙂

Annalise x

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Review: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s hard to review this book because it basically doesn’t have a plot – it’s a collection of lists and snapshots into Mindy’s life (until 2011). I’m not complaining – I enjoyed it more than a boring old memoir as Mindy’s personality shines through (and her humour is what makes this book so easy and compelling to read). Mindy says in the first few pages that she’d like the book to read like a really funny magazine, and it succeeds in that aim.

Mindy reminds me of my best friend. This is the kind of book which makes you want to be Mindy’s best friend – she’s funny and lovely and relatable. This book reads like a long conversation, a humourous one at that, the kind you’d have over wine and chocolates before watching Bridget Jones’ Diary (which, incidentally, is a film that makes Mindy cry).

A word of warning: this was written before The Mindy Project aired, and Mindy does makes references to her time at The Office (which I enjoyed less because I’ve never watched it) – it’s a good read nonetheless, but I feel those who are more acquainted with Mindy’s work would enjoy some chapters more.

This is a short and sweet read (at 222 pages), which is easy to devour in a day or two. The sequel, Why Not Me?, will be published in September, and looks to be slightly longer (a welcome change).

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