Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Book Review: Lisa Appignanesi - Paris Requiem

This follows the life of Raf, James, and Ellie – a trio of siblings. Having been giving the task to bring his siblings back to America, James travels to Paris and finds himself caught up in something that he might have preferred to avoid. After a spate of apparent suicides, including Raf’s lover, the trio (though more so Raf and James) set about trying to get to the bottom of what happened as they’re certain there’s something amiss and it was murder, not suicide.

I will be completely honest and say it took me quite a while to get into this book – not because it’s written terribly or because it’s boring, but simply because it’s more challenging to read than what I’d found myself reading of late. It’s the kind of book that you have to concentrate on in order to keep up with what’s happening – at least that was the case for me, anyway. However, once I had got into the book (took me perhaps 50-100 pages), I was utterly absorbed. I found myself looking forward to the journey to work just so I could sneak a few pages in.

It’s a rich story with lots of aspects to follow, hence the need for concentration, but I never once felt like all the aspects didn’t mesh or work together. Everything blended into a story that was compelling to read and, consequently, something that I would advise people to read. It touched upon themes that I’m not so used to reading about (mental health and anti-Semitism for example) but that’s not a bad thing.

The characters are detailed and full, none of them felt like they overpowered another or were simply there for the sake of being there. Each character has a purpose and brings something to the storyline whilst helping to get certain things out of other characters too. They work well together without feeling bland or pointless.

It’s set in Paris in the 1800’s and I feel like, although it’s not necessary to know what times were like back then to enjoy and appreciate the story, it might have helped to know a little of the background. While we’re on the subject of Paris, one thing that I didn’t enjoy about this book (in fact, it’s the only thing and it’s the tiniest of complaints) is that there would be the odd sentence in French that wasn’t always explained and if, like me, you’re not particularly good at French, it puts you off the reading flow.

The ending felt very well written – sometimes with books I get the feeling the author has reached the point of desperation and just wants to get the ending over with ASAP. That wasn’t the case with Paris Requiem.
I enjoyed the structure and the plot of this book. It flowed wonderfully, I was left guessing and wondering what was going to happen next. The time line was relatively clear so you never felt lost or confused. All in all it was a pleasure to read and I look forward to reading more of Appignanesi’s work.


P.S. on a side note, how beautiful is the cover and does it remind anybody else of The Exorcist? xx

Thursday, 8 May 2014

TAG: Reading Habits

1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?
My bed is my number 1 place for reading. Whether it’s sitting up or laying down before bed, I’m at my most comfortable there which means I can get lost in the book easier.

2. Bookmark or random piece of paper?
Usually it’s a bookmark. My best friend bought me a beautiful motivational one that I use on occasion. I also have a metal bookmark with 50 books to read before you die on it which I love using. At the moment, however, I’m using a press release as a bookmark because I keep forgetting to swap to my bookmark.

3. Can you just stop reading or do you have to stop after a chapter or certain number of pages?
If I’m at home, I won’t stop mid-chapter… I HAVE to reach the next one. If I’m on the tube, that’s a whole different story though because I can’t really stay on extra stops until I’ve finished that particular chapter.

4. Do you eat or drink when reading?
I’ve always got a bottle of water near me so I usually sip on that. There are times I’ll read whilst eating dinner but that very much depends on what I’m eating, if it’s remotely messy I wouldn’t dare!

5. Do you watch TV or listen to music when reading?
If I’m reading on the way to/from work, I’ll have my iPod on and my TV is usually on in the background at home.

6. One book at a time or several at once?
One book at a time. I don’t know how people read more than one book – I’d get confused between the stories and characters, etc. I wish I could read more than one at a time though, my ‘to-read’ list wouldn’t be as long then.

7. Reading at home or everywhere?
I’ll read everywhere, I’m not fussed. Except cars/buses/coaches – but that’s only because I get travel sickness on them. If I’m on a train/tube/in bed/at a friend’s house/anywhere else, I’m happy to read.

8. Reading out loud or silently in your head?
In my head, for sure.

9. Do you ever read ahead or skip pages?
When I start nearing the end of a book, I have to use all of my self-restraint to not skip forward and see if it’s going to end how I thought. There are times when that doesn’t work out so well, I’ll be honest.

10. Breaking the spine or keeping it like new?
I’m not particularly bothered either way. What I will say is if I lend out a book that I’ve not read yet and it comes back with a broken spine, I get a bit miffed. If it’s me, I don’t mind what happens – a broken spine is often a sign of a well-read book so that’s never a bad thing.

11. Do you write in your books?
Sacrilege! I would never. Even during my educational years, I never wrote in my books – no matter how many times teachers would tell me it would be useful for revision.

I tag everyone who enjoys reading!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

BOOK REVIEW: Jennifer Joyce - A Beginners Guide To Salad

"Ruth loves nothing more than curling up in front of the telly with a family-sized bar of chocolate. She doesn’t do diets and she certainly doesn’t do exercise. But all that changes when she’s invited to her school reunion.
Bullied at school for being overweight, Ruth’s first reaction is to rip the invitation into a million pieces. But then Ruth hatches a plan. She’ll lose the weight and arrive at the reunion looking gorgeous and glamorous, leaving her old classmates in awe. Especially her former crush, Zack O’Connell.
With the help of her friends and a new, unbelievably hot colleague, Ruth begins her transformation. With six months until the reunion, losing weight will be a piece of cake, right?"
 I was lucky enough to win this book but, let me start by saying, I would happily have paid full price for this and would recommend it to anybody. It’s one of those fantastic books whereby you’re fairly certain you know exactly what’s going to happen but every now and then a little twist rears its little head and makes you question things.

It follows the life of Ruth as she embarks on a mission to lose weight so she can attend her school reunion with her head held high and show her former bullies that she’s not the person she was, that she’s over what they did and all the hurtful things they said. There’s two problems with this; she’s awful with diets and she’s not really over it at all.

Along the way, we meet the people in Ruth’s life that matter most – her best friend and flatmate, Billy, her work colleague and friend, Erin, her other flatmate, Theo, and her newest colleague, Jared. What I loved most about this book (if I HAD to pick one thing) would be that each chapter is written the view point of a character, be in Ruth (1st person) or any of the others (3rd person). It really helps you to get a rounded view of what’s happening and how everything affects them all. Better still, there are times when they recap things from a different point of view (I’m describing this so terribly, I’m sorry!) – so if Ruth and Billy are in a scene together and it’s first told to us through Ruth’s point of view, it’s then recapped from Billy’s; it’s a great way to see that people misinterpret things or see things in a different way.

The relationships in this book are fantastic. There was, perhaps, one point in the book where I found myself questioning where Billy has disappeared to but, oddly enough, the next chapter was his and he had just got into a relationship so, as in reality, he’d clearly gone a little M.I.A. whilst getting to know his lovely lady. The interactions are brilliant and true to life and the relationships are complex and comforting.

The characters are realistic, as are the struggles they go through. Jared and Ruth are dealing with their own demons and helping each other through, although they don’t necessarily realise it at the time – lots of misinterpretations and the like. Billy is Ruth’s older brother, Stephen’s best friend and Ruth’s best friend too. He’s there for her as a shoulder to cry on and a support whenever she needs it. Erin is the slightly promiscuous but kind-hearted friend who is on her own little journey that runs in the background of the story. Theo is a male Erin but without the journey – he is what he is and we love or hate him for it.

There’s humour, romance, and tragedy all wrapped up within this wonderfully written story. I was captivated from start to finish and was a bit gutted when I’d finished it, if I’m honest.

As I said at the start of this book, you think you know where it’s going to go but little things keep happening that make you question how sure you are about it and so you change your opinion, only for something else to pop up. It’s this writing style and structure that keeps you absolutely hooked – I had hoped for an early night last night but, nope, I had to stay up and finish it because I couldn’t bear to put it down.

It’s nice to read a book where, although there’s a happy end, it doesn’t entirely work out for the main character – she didn’t end up in the place she’d hoped but she’s happy and that’s such a life lesson to us all… You can’t plan for life but you can be happy with what you’ve got, even if it’s not what you expected. I loved it – it’s as simple as that.

Available to buy on Amazon