Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher – Book Review

Title: Billy and Me

Author: Giovanna Fletcher

Rating: 3/5

Genres: Women’s Literature, Chick-Flick, Romance, Summer Reads, Girl-Meets-Boy


“I wish I could bottle the feelings of love inside me and save them for a rainy day – to remind myself of their magnitude in those moments of doubt.”

Summer’s always call for a nice, easy romantic novel to read by the beach or on a train. And after rereading Billy and Me, and keeping it in my bag for such trips, I fell back in love with this first novel by author, Giovanna Fletcher. Now, Fletcher has written other books in her short time of being an author, and each on follows a relatively easy, and similar style of the ups and downs of love, but Billy and Me has held a special place in my heart.

So, meet Sophie May, a down-to-earth and kind-hearted young woman who lives and works in the picturesque village of Rosefont, and has been working for years at the charmingly named cafe called ‘Tea-on-the-Hill’. However, for years Sophie has been hiding something. A secret that stopped her from going to university, travelling and gave her a reason to stay in this tiny village with her mother. But, when Sophie meets Billy, a gorgeously talented, up-and-coming movie star, she falls in love, finds a new way of life, and she gets swept up in the life of a Hollywood plus-one. But does Sophie really want to change her set in stone way of life, and go into the world of the celebrity which could force her secret to be revealed?
—-

This book is easy to read.

That’s the first thing I must say.

And this is not entirely a positive thing, but neither is a negative. Fletcher writes in a very simplistic, exclamation-mark heavy way, which did put me off slightly, and for people who are used to reading descriptive, Pulitzer-prize winning writing, this may be just too simple for them. But for a romantic, silly summer read, it is perfect.

The characters are a mixed bunch. I found Sophie to be one of those women who you either adore, or just be annoyed by. But what Fletcher did do well is giving Sophie a deep-seated and true set of morals, as she doesn’t just go whisking off to live the ‘easy’ life with Billy, but she has family and commitments that she cannot just abandon. Billy was written well, as his character was flawed, and it takes the reader the entire novel to really notice these flaws, and with Molly, and Sophie’s mum, these were the perfect side characters to dealing with the drama of Billy and Sophie’s relationship. However, other than that, the smaller characters don’t have much depth, and could have been developed more, and been more integral to the part.

In world-building, Fletcher’s Rosefont village is a good example of the dynamic of a small village, where everyone does know everything, and to keep a secret can be a struggle, and she writes it in a way that is true and personal to Sophie’s issues/

Overall, Fletcher’s writing is almost too simple, and sometimes fluffy, but it gets the plot through in a fast-paced and interesting way. There are some points that you do have to battle through the sheer amount of exclamation marks, and frustrating use of ‘Bloomin!’, but it is a lighthearted and sweet read to take with you, when you don’t want to tax your brain too much. And, in my opinion, Fletcher’s original debut into the literature world was one that shows a flair of talent that she hasn’t properly developed yet, and that she had a promising start to go on from that.

Also, what I find interesting, and what I took from the novel, is how Fletcher may have been influenced by her own life to write Billy and Me. If you, as the reader am unaware, Fletcher is married to long-time love Tom Fletcher, from the pop group, McFly. And the idea of a young girl who was pushed into the limelight could be very similar to how Giovanna felt in the early stages of Tom’s career. So, perhaps that is what makes this novel so touching. That the personal life of the author has seeped into this novel, and makes it slightly more believable.

So yes, for all those star-crossed love readers out there, and all those who just love the whole love-triumphing-or-does-it stories, I would recommend Billy and Me, without a second thought.

If you, as a reader, loved:

1: Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult.
2: Bridget Jones Diary by Helen Fielding
3: The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

I’m sure you’ll love this book!

Links

Buy the book – Amazon/Waterstones

Author’s Website – Click Here

Author’s Twitter – Click Here

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick – Book Review.

Title: The Silver Linings Playbook

Author: Matthew Quick

Rating: 4/5

Genres: Adult Fiction, YA Fiction, Mental Health, Awareness Fiction, Teenage Fiction, Romance, Chick-Flick


“Life is not a PG feel-good movie. Real life often ends badly. Literature tries to document this reality, while showing us it is still possible for us to endure nobly.”

To this particular reviewer, mental health, and issues surrounding mental health have not been the easiest category to find novels written about. Novels such as Go Ask Alice, The Solitude of Prime Numbers and The Perks of Being a Wallflower are all well-know examples of this genre, yet if you compare them up to books that have been written about cancer, or abuse, the scales are heavily weighed towards these ones. And I am definitely not criticising these novels, as any survivor who is brave and feels confident enough to write about their experiences should all be praised. But to me, the world of mental health, and issues that surround mental health have not be entirely explored. As, as readers are probably aware, there is still a massive taboo that has been attached to mental health, and if there was plenty of literature about it, it may be understood more.

Matthew Quick’s The Silver Linings Playbook is one of those novels that deals with mental health in a practical, straightforward and in-your-face sort of fashion. It deals with the everyday life of taking prescriptions, dealing with relapses and sessions with therapists and counsellors, as well as dealing with how the family and friends surrounding a person dealing with mental health get affected.

After suffering a breakdown, and spending time in a psychiatric unit, Pat Peoples becomes determined to get his life back on track. Moving between building relationship with estranged friends and family, getting fit, and most importantly, looking out for that silver lining to have positivity in his life, Pat’s ultimate goal is to get the reconciliation with his now-estranged wife, Nikki. However, through obstacles, such as his overly protective parents, mood swings that rage civil war with his own good intentions, and one particular smooth jazz song, Pat finds that he seems to be running into circles. But, when he meets the mysterious and beautiful Tiffany, who quickly befriends him and helps him understand that labyrinth that is his own thoughts, he seems to be running closer and closer towards his goal. But when Tiffany reveals secrets that Pat’s been kept in the dark about, and issues that haven’t been revealed to him, is all this running for nothing? Or could his find a new silver lining to reach for?
—-

Now, it’s very hard to write a book summary without mentioning the 2012 film starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Because that is such a good film, and despite not following the book completely, it definitely holds its own and the trailer for the film will be linked below. However, after a reread of the book, there is something about the book-Pat that Cooper couldn’t quite get. Pat is such a brilliant individual. Because despite having his own issues, and struggles, he really tries to reach for that silver lining in every scenario. He is such a glass-half-full kind of guy, and he seems loyal towards his dreams. And his dream is his wife Nikki.

However, it is revealed that their love, and the idolised version that he paints in his head is completely different from the reality. And for the reader to experience that is a blow, because you discover it as the same time as Pat does.

Pat’s mind, and the way it works is also an example of excellent writing. A thought pattern can be very difficult to write down, as it’s never linear and like a train track. It twists and turns, but usually always comes back to one idea or solution. Pat’s mind is written that way, but his constant, underlying thought is ‘Nikki, Nikki, Nikki’. And not only does that reveal how well Quick can write a person, but also how his mental illness borders on obsession.

Now, as I said, the film in comparison to the book has differences. The relationship Pat has with his parents is one of those story arcs that the film doesn’t go properly into, especially in relation to his father. Pat’s father – aptly named Pat Sr is one of those characters who you wish had his own point-of-view chapters, just to see what he thinks of his family However, to me, the real star of the show is Tiffany. And despite Pat being an excellent protagonist, and really showing how mental illness can affect people’s lives, he is in a different league to the complexities of Tiffany.

Like Pat, Tiffany suffers from her own issues, which is only really explored in the later chapters, yet she is also one of those characters that you sometimes wish you were. She is incredibly confident about her own abilities in deciding what she wants, and makes herself very clear when she voices her opinions. However, she unfortunately has a tendency to, when she wants something, she will the hardest to make it difficult to gain it.

Her and Pat’s relationship are also one of those which seem to have been thrown together by destiny. They both argue, are both incredibly stubborn, and yet together, they have some of the most interesting conversations with each, and seem to be completely at ease with each when they’re alone.

One more thing I love about the book is the chapter names. They are named after lines from each chapter that are completely out of context, but make for some enjoyable reading. My personal favourite is ‘Sister Sailor-Mouth’.

I’m going to be completely honest here. This isn’t the best written book, and nor is going to be the best book I’ve ever read. But the story does seep out from the page, and makes you want to read it over and over again. However, the film version is definitely one of the best adaptations I’ve seen. And despite it not following the story completely, the acting ability of Cooper and Lawrence, as well as the documentation of the family relationships and fitting soundtrack, does add to the whole quality of it. So yes, read the book and then watch the film.

And I’m going to end this review with a quote from Lawrence in her Oscar-winners speech, which I think sums up the feeling of the book, and what she wanted to portray through Tiffany, – ‘I don’t think we’re going to stop until we get rid of this stigma for mental illness. I know David won’t. And I hope that this helps. It’s just so bizarre how in this world, if you have asthma you take asthma medicine, and diabetes you take diabetes medicine, but as soon as you take medication for your mind, it’s such a stigma behind it’.

If you, as a reader, loved:
1: ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’ by Stephen Chbosky
2: ‘Girl, Interrupted’ by Susanna Kaysen
3: ‘The Bell Jar’ by Sylvia Plath

You’ll love this.

Links:

Buy the book – Amazon/Waterstones 

Author’s Website – Click Here

Trailer for the film

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – Book Review.

Title: Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares

Author: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan.

Rating: 3/5

Genres: Teenage Fiction, Young Adult, Romance, Chick-Flick


“The important people in our lives leave imprints. They may stay or go in the physical realm, but they are always there in your heart, because they helped form your heart. There’s no getting over that.”

Like many readers, I will always be entranced and want to buy a book if it is put in positive comparison to my favourite authors. And with Cohn and Levithan’s novel, the tagline came as followed:

‘Fans of Stephen Chbosky and John Green will fall in love with Dash and Lily’.

So, immediately I knew that this was going to be the sort of genre that I enjoy reading, and, more importantly, it had big boots to fill.

The novel follows the adventure of happy-go-lucky Lily, who, despite not being one for spontaneous acts of mischief and adventure, she decides to leave a red notebook full of dares in a bustling New York bookshop, in the hope of having a Christmas romance with the lucky recipient. However, when hipster teen Dash comes along, he becomes the target for this seasonal romance. And in a series of challenges that take them all over the city over the festive period, they find themselves being drawn together, and falling for each other over paper. But, as in all good, tragic fairytale romances that include teenagers, can the real versions of themselves live up to their paper twins when they finally meet up? Or, is this one dare that has gone too far?

Now, this novel is a fluffy novel. That cannot be denied. It is a properly romantic-Love-Actually-sort of novel. And that can put people off it. This novel would be perfect for an easy read over Christmas break. And due to this, I particularly loved the first half of the novel, The inevitable love through letters were done well, and you could see how the letters change and develop as Dash and Lily start developing feelings from each other, and this provides enjoyable, light reading.

However, towards the end the novel started to feel rushed, and clichéd in a way. Unlike Chbosky and Green, the novel didn’t enthrall me from start to finish, and I didn’t become emotionally invested in the characters in the way that the novel set them up to be. The potential for a light-hearted, sort of Cecilia Ahern book was there, but it fell into the realm of trying too hard to be like them, and therefore failed in itself.

The characters of Dash and Lily were a mixed bunch. Dash was easily my favourite, as he was the most involved and complex character in the book, yet he did have an almost nauseating level of hipster-ness and snark that I did find off-putting. However, the depths of some of his arguments were well-founded, and therefore he was better to read. But Lily was too much of a do-gooder. She had all the characteristics of a complete chick-flick protagonist, but had no depth or personality to her. And that is easily one of the things that readers love exploring. They want their characters to be realistic, and not just words on the page. And unfortunately, they didn’t entirely turn out this way.

Now, I know that Cohn and Levithan have both co-written books before – including the acclaimed Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist-  and Levithan is well known for his partnership with John Green in ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’, yet I felt that this novel was trying to build too much up, and trying too hard to be like these other books. However, this could be just the fact that I’m a twenty-one year old woman, and this is definitely aimed towards a younger audience.

Nevertheless, it is a sweet and adorable book for the Christmas season, and well worth a read if you want an uncomplicated, lighthearted read that may not stick with you afterwards, but may make you think of it fondly. However, to me, this novel doesn’t hold the same rank of Chbosky and Green, so under that pretension that it should, I was sorely disappointed.

If  you, as a reader, loved:

  • Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan.
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Then you’ll enjoy this read!

Links:

Buy the book: Waterstones/Amazon

Author’s Website – Levithan/Cohn

Interview with the author’s – Part One

The Casual Vacancy by J.K Rowling – Book Review

Title: The Casual Vacancy

Author: J.K Rowling

Rating: 4/5

Genres: Adult fiction, Young Adult, Tragicomedy, Society Novel, Modern Society


When I started blogging, I did make a rule that I would never review any of J.K Rowling’s books – only due to the fact that I wasn’t sure if I could write a book review that would be fair to the book and not reflect the author. But, as I did a recent reread of the novel, I feel that I have enough to say about this book without really mentioning the author.

Set in the West Country village of Pagford (think Sandford in Hot Fuzz and the idea of the pastoral/Golden England image), the death of local councillor Barry Fairbrother completely shocks the closeted community, and subsequently leaves an empty gap on the local parish council – a spot which not only holds massive personal significance to the ‘Old Guard’ of the village, but could influence how the village and the neighbouring boroughs are run. And within these boroughs, the council estate of ‘The Fields’ and the Bellchapel Methadone Rehabilitation Clinic is a long-standing, sore spot for the inhabitants of Pagford. The ‘Casual Vacancy’ of the council seat is the set up for one of the biggest civil wars that the village has ever had to deal with. And inbetween the midst of interwoven story lines of poverty, teenage drama, salacious gossip and drug and death, this battleground threatens to break the fragile bliss that hangs over the community/.

First thing that must be addressed is that, despite the author, this is not a Potter-related story in the slightest. When Rowling first of all announced the book, there was surprise over how different the genre and world was away from Hogwarts and all its magical glory. But, this book holds its own against Potter.

Now, I must be brutally honest. If, beforehand, I spotted this book in Waterstones at it hadn’t been written by Rowling, I may have not picked it up. I grew up with Harry Potter, and that woman impacted my life in more ways than one. However, after reading this novel, I have been introduced to a whole new genre of literature that I just want to devour. And, this has nothing to do with the author, but with the content itself.

This novel deals with very adult themes that do affect everyday people in an everyday life, and despite it having the center story arc of an empty parish seat and a land dispute, this novel is gripping from page one to page five-hundred-and-three.

The initial idea that everybody-knows-everything-in-a-small-village isn’t too dissimilar to my own village, and I was surprised to being able to relate some many issues that she writes about. Rowling, after living in Chepstow in her youth, clearly knows what it’s like to have such an intimate community, and has brought her own experiences of quirks that smaller towns and villages have, such as particular attitudes to outsiders, and the characters in general.

Each character is so well-developed, and intriguing to the plot that there is not weak link in the village structure. And she has done the rare thing of making truly villainous characters so hateful that you cannot find any glimmer of positivity, and she has made the upstanding, thoughtful characters lovely and more-ish. But she’s also written the others in a way that they are flawed, and human-like, so that you can understand when they make mistakes, and have personalities that you can draw upon your own.

As a Potter fan, the way that Rowling writes has clearly developed over the years. There is a massive difference between the Philosopher’s Stone, and the Deathly Hallows. And the writing didn’t shock me, but it did surprise me. he way it’s written didn’t shock me so much at first, but it did surprise me.With frank discussions about sex, death, drugs and swearing, Rowling writes in a realistic way to the genre and the adult category of the book, yet I was guilty to rearing back after reading a particularly graphic bit of swearing and thinking that this was the same woman who created Harry, Ron and Hermione. And, unfortunately, if you constantly think about the comparison between Potter and Casual Vacancy, you can never properly enjoy the book, and it may be what has put people off reading it.

However, all in all, The Casual Vacancy is truly a gripping narrative which sucks you right into the bustling world of Pagford and the constant underlying tension until the very end, and I would recommend to any age from teenager upwards. But, with the plot differing to Potter, and more adult themes that can shock unsurprising readers, it will be for a more mature audience that Rowling does attract.

There was also a three-part BBC series of The Casual Vacancy that aired earlier this year, and despite this not following the plot entirely, and having to be changed to adapt for television, I would recommend it for character choice, and quality of the acting and sets. But, read the book first. As the ending of the book is completely different to the series, and in my opinion, far more harrowing.

If you, as a reader, enjoyed:

  • Jodi Picoult’s novels
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year by Sue Townsend

Then you’ll love this book!

Links

Buy the book – Waterstones/Amazon

JK Rowling’s Website – Click Here

Trailer for the BBC series


Note – have begun the transferal of all my old blogposts on my now-defunct blog onto this one. This blog will house everything I’ve published before, but in a sleeker and more professional way.

Thank you for reading this review.

Please comment, share this around etc.

Alice x

A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin – Saga Review.

Title: A Song of Ice and Fire (Book Series)

Author: George R.R Martin

Rating: 5/5

Genres: High-fantasy, world-building, action, adventure, epic fantasy


“What is honor compared to a woman’s love? What is duty against the feel of a newborn son in your arms . . . or the memory of a brother’s smile? Wind and words. Wind and words. We are only human, and the gods have fashioned us for love. That is our great glory, and our great tragedy.”

Unless you have been living under a rock, or on Mars, you would have heard about George R.R Martin’s award-winning high fantasy series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’ – a series which has gained international recognition from the adaptation of the series under the title ‘Game of Thrones’ – the name of the first book. From this, Martin has been dubbed ‘The American Tolkien’ by many of his fans, and critics, and has become one of the staples in the fantasy genre of today’s youth.

And truthfully, I can very happily live with this comparison.

Like most readers of the series, I sat down one summer and just blitzed through them all, eagerly devouring the next one with the same gusto as the last, and developing true feelings over each individual. Martin, like Tolkien, has created an entire world; equipped with highly believable political and religious debates, and threaded with enough fantastical aspects that, if you cut it with a long sword, knights, dragons and warriors would pour from the wound instead of blood.

Set within the imaginary worlds of Westeros and Essos, the saga focuses on the political strife of powerful and corrupt ancestral houses, who run different kingdoms, and their battle to win the ‘game of thrones’ – a battle which will put the rightful and true leader on the throne of the entire country. The struggle to win the ‘game of thrones’ is heaped with warring factions, backstabbings, war and graphic depictions of violence. In each family, there is intrigue, sabotage and murder, and along with the mythical creatures that Martin has created, he really sets the bar for high-fantasy.

To me, it’s definitely one of those series that you just have to sit down and devour, and you will become immersed in this intricate world. It is not only the world-building that I applaud (honestly, it’s on the same level of Tolkien, Pratchett and Rowling in its intricacy and structure), but the characters are each so brilliantly imagined. Each one has tales to tell, and developed multi-layered personalities, which as Goodreads states makes the ‘characters that you love, hate to love, or love to hate.’ But what I adore about these books is that Martin has not left any one character under-developed. He has given each character the same level of attention, and he never gives up with story arcs, and does not leave anything unfinished. And this is the same from the biggest and most prominant story arcs – which focuses on the four main houses – the Starks, the Baratheons, the Lannisters and the Targaryens – to the smallest, yet equally crucial characters of Gendry and Hot Pie.

As I said before, the main story arcs focuses on the four ancestral houses, each which comes with family strength, loyalty torn between the safety of their loved ones and the country, and the ultimate drive towards power.Through the series, the depiction of each family changes dramatically, and as the characters grow up and develop through the series, so does the reader’s ideas on them.

Each book goes further in the pain of trying to win the ‘game of thrones’, and through new characters being introduced, red herrings being thrown in, cliffhangers so well done it makes you squirm, Martin leaves the reader hooked after every chapter.

However, these books aren’t for the fainthearted. Despite being good, the series is very high-fantasy, and I would not recommend it to any younger readers, under the age of thirteen. And this is purely due to the amount of descriptive scenes of sex, murder and bloody battles. I wouldn’t recommend to younger readers who aren’t used to such descriptive scenes of sex and murder, as well as for the squeamish. 

But all in all, Martin has written a series that has not only gripped fantasy readers, but through the Emmy-award winning series from HBO, it has introduced families and individuals into the world of high-fantasy that hasn’t really happened since the Lord of the Rings came out. From my watching, the series has been a fantastic adaptation of the series, and the casting on the characters has been done very well. The production values are excellent too.

Now, A Song of Ice and Fire has not finished yet – as we speak, readers are eagerly waiting for the release of the next book in the series, titled ‘The Winds of Winter’. But with a publication date estimated between 2015-2018, any readers will have plenty of chance to catch up and read the saga so far.

So, if you, as a reader, ever enjoyed:

  • J.R.R Tolkein’s ‘The Hobbit’ or ‘The Lord of the Rings’
  • Philip Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials’
  • Christopher Paolini’s ‘Inheritance Series’
  • Patrick Rothfuss’ ‘The Kingkiller Chronicle’

Then, I’m sure you’ll love this!

Links:

Preview for the first series of ‘Game of Thrones’.

Buy the entire series – Waterstones/Amazon

Buy the first book – Waterstones/Amazon

George R.R Martin’s website – Click Here


Note – have begun the transferal of all my old blogposts on my now-defunct blog onto this one. This blog will house everything I’ve published before, but in a sleeker and more professional way.

Thank you for reading this review.

Please comment, share this around etc.

Alice x