Friday, 26 June 2015

Book Review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

Sophie Kinsella, the well-known woman behind the Shopaholic series, has ventured into the tough market that is YA fiction with her latest release, Finding Audrey*. Released earlier this month on the 4th of June, we are in for a treat with the story of a teenage girl with anxiety.

"Audrey can't leave the house. She can't even take off her dark glasses in the house. 

Then her brother's friend Linus stumbles into her life. With his friendly, orange-slice smile and his funny notes, he starts to entice Audrey out again - well, Starbucks is a start. And with Linus at her side, Audrey feels like she can do the things she'd thought were too scary. Suddenly, finding her way back to the real world seems achievable.

Be prepared to laugh, dream and hope with Audrey as she learns that even when you feel like you have lost yourself, love can still find you. . ."

Can we all please take a moment to appreciate (and giggle) at the name Linus. Where do authors come up with things like that? It never ceases to amaze me. All I could think about the whole way through reading this book was noses. You know, sinus/linus... There is a similarity, you can't deny it. 

On a more serious note, Sophie has really hit the nail in the head with this one and produced a real winner. I have a feeling that Sophie is well on her way into successfully breaking the YA genre following her success with her previous novels. She has created incredibly likeable (and relateable) characters that you just want to keep reading more about and cannot get enough of. I absolutely adored the mum in the book. I feel like it is my own mum but in book form which made it so enjoyable and hilarious to read. Sophie has a natural gift for writing, one that many people can only aspire to achieve. She manages to tackle issues in a way that leaves you feeling uplifted and warm and fuzzy inside. 

Finding Audrey goes a lot deeper than I expected it to. I am going to be honest - I was expecting a fluffy, typical YA romance novel that glosses over the important issues like anxiety by Sophie Kinsella faces it head on here. We gradually learn that Audrey has gone through some traumatic bullying at school that has left her afraid to face the world, something which is common amongst many young teen girls today. Her family do their best to support her, but they are pretty bonkers and, umm, 'eccentric', I guess you could say. She is tasked with making a documentary of her life and communicating through a camera lens. The scripted scenes are actually some of my favourite parts of this book, written like an actual stage show. 

This book is unique in the sense that not much actually happens. Does that make sense? There is no real major build up to a big event, which is unusual. It is more about the little things that made this story even more amazing, like venturing out to Starbucks, or going on a bus, or meeting someone new because for Audrey, these are big events. I also loved the mum's obsession with the Daily Mail newspaper, as she constantly tries out new ways to spend time as a family. The obsession with technology and gaming amongst teenage boys plays a major role, which I feel is a very true to life representation and really adds to the authenticity of Audrey's story. Similarly, her relationship with Linus is truly heartwarming, as he pushes her out of her comfort zone and forces her to face up to her dark thoughts and finally get her life back in order. 

This book made me laugh, smile and cry. Most importantly, it made the THINK. Every action that we do has an effect on people and it is important to always remember that. Bullying affected Audrey so deeply, as I am sure it does many people. The actions of others can have a major impact on lives, and you may never realise the extent of it. Bravo, Sophie. I cannot recommend this book enough.


*Advance copy provided for review purposes. See full disclaimer here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Mini Book Haul

2 book-related posts in one week? I must be keen.

You may or may not have seen this photo on my instagram earlier (@hollylabeau - shameless plug) but I thought I would share it on here regardless. I have a serious addiction to buying new books and I buy them quicker than I can read them. I have a giant pile by the side of my bed of books that I have still to read, and now I have three more to add to it. 

Us by David Nicholls
Famous for his novel, One Day, David Nicholls is an author that I have heard great things about but never tried out for myself. I had popped into my local Asda at the weekend to pick up a few essentials and spotted this for only £3.85. It took me all of five seconds to go through the thought process of 'Should I buy it? Probably not, I am meant to be saving. Do I need another book? Definitely not. Will I get it anyway? Aye, okay. Let's do it.' The blurb doesn't give too much away but it leaves you wanting more, which is exactly how you want to feel (don't you just hate when they tell you practically the whole story on the back of the book? It's like watching a movie trailer and it shows you the end).

Emma by Jane Austen
After reading Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion for my advanced higher English class, I have got the Jane Austen bug and want to read more. This is my English teacher's favourite one so I knew it had to be the next one that I read. Although the language is really hard to get to grips with, Sparknotes is an absolute lifesaver with its chapter summaries. This is £1.99 on Amazon and theworks.co.uk but I got it on the latter because I had a free delivery code. If I didn't have the code, I probably would have gotten the Amazon purely because the cover design is cuter.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare
I love the Mortal Instruments series and have just gotten round to buying the last one, which is absolutely huuuuge by the way. This should keep me occupied for, ohh, about two days. It's been a while since I read Clary's story so I might have to go back and recap what happened previously before starting on this book. It was a steal at £1.99 again on theworks.co.uk, which is pretty amazing considering 630-odd page book. Somehow, it is now back up to £10.99 so I wonder if the reduced price was a mistake or if I just timed it well and purchased it on a day that it was reduced. Read my review of City of Bones: Mortal Instruments book 1 here

Have you purchased any good books recently? I am open to some suggestions!

Friday, 29 May 2015

Book Review: Elizabeth is Missing


I haven't been reading as much as I would like recently, and that is all down to that dreaded time of the year for us students - it is exam month. Although I haven't studied anywhere near as much as I probably should have (and that is a result of my poor motivation), I haven't really been sitting down and reading many books. That being said, I have had Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey sitting by my bed for a good few weeks now and I have been reading a chapter or two every now and then. It has taken a while, but I have finally finished it.

THE STORY

 Elizabeth is Missing follows Maud, an elderly lady suffering from dementia. The synopsis from Amazon goes (roughly) as follows: "Emma Healey's stunning debut novel introduces a mystery, an unsolved crime and one of the most unforgettable characters since Mark Haddon's Christopher. Meet Maud... 'Elizabeth is missing', reads the note in Maud's pocket in her own handwriting. Lately, Maud's been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she's made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud determined to discover what happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war."

The story jumps between the present day as it is seen by Maud and her confused brain and her as a young girl, as she follows the various clues and mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Sukey and Elizabeth. Written in first person narrative, you get a real insight into the mind of someone suffering from dementia. You are told something one minute, and then Maud will have forgotten it a few sentences later. It is one of those rare cases that you sometimes know more than the main character themselves, and it is entirely refreshing.

MY THOUGHTS

I have to admit, there was something about this book that made me struggle to properly get into it. I don't know if it was just me or if it had anything to do with the book, but I really struggled to concentrate with it. Like I said, I read only a couple of chapters at a time and it took me a while to get through it despite it not being a particularly long book, and yet normally I fly through books. That said, there really is nothing else like this book. It's about time that I read a unique book - something that isn't just the same story AGAIN, but with different characters. It's not often a book told from the point of view of an elderly lady lands in my hands, but this time I am quite glad it did.

Throughout the story, the passages on Maud's childhood become progressively longer as the present day information become shorter and shorter. This is something that you would expect from an elderly dementia sufferer due to finding it much easier to recall the past, and I thought that in this respect it was very cleverly written. However, I just didn't feel like I really connected with Maud as a character. I don't think it is that I couldn't relate to her (as I am not 82 years old...) because I have read plenty of books before in which the main character is nothing like me, I just didn't feel much sympathy towards her. The whole way through the book I was thinking there was a massive hole in the story - surely Maud could have figured out what happened to Sukey when she still had her memory? Why wait until 70 years after she disappeared to become obsessed with it? I understand that her not knowing where her friend Elizabeth is has triggered something inside her about her missing sister, but surely she would have found some evidence before then. Maybe I am just reading too much into it (haha, reading, geddit?). 

Apart from that, I would say that it is a very well written book that is an enjoyable read, but possibly not my favourite book that I have read so far. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset whilst reading it, so I will go back to it and read it again at some point, but for now I will leave it at that. That said, I would say that I think you should check out this book (bit of a contradiction, I know) because it is quite refreshing to read something a little out of the norm every once in a while. A little change can do you good. 

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