Posted in book reviews

Pretending – Holly Bourne

WHY BE YOURSELF WHEN YOU CAN BE PERFECT?
‘Perceptive. Hilarious. Reassuring. Brilliant.’ Laura Jane Williams
The highly-anticipated new novel from Holly Bourne, bestselling author of HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW?

He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being’ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?

Pretending isn’t a bad book, but it’s not the greatest either.

Bourne’s novels always discuss important subjects, such as different forms of assault, toxic relationships, mental health struggles, and, to put broadly, feminism. And this is so important. Her novels have opened a wider discourse and conversations with people, offering a new perspective, and has provided an accessible and new space to discuss the trauma, and advise on how to seek help/recognise negative behaviour.

And this novel did that. This novel follows the protagonist April, who works as part of a charity on the front-lines, helping people with their struggles. This can range from helping them dealing with their rape, alcohol abuse, or suicidal thoughts, etc. And while April is working there, she finds herself dealing with the trauma and the effects of when she was raped a few years beforehand.

The novel does a deep dive in to April’s trauma, her coping mechanisms. Part of this is her deep distrust and hatred of men. So April forms the stereotypical, satirical alter ego of ‘Gretel’ who is basically – what she thinks, and what we often see in various forms of media – the mans perfect woman. April thinks if she becomes Gretel, she will be free from being harmed by men: she has the control.

But this isn’t as easy as April thinks it is, and this all pans out throughout the course of the novel. In conversations with herself, her friend, her therapist, her newly met friends at a boxing class for other survivors. While that is all very in-depth, I found the novel to be lacking something…

Originality. I think if this was the first novel of Bourne’s I read, it would get a much higher rating. But to me, this feels like the adult version (or the finalised draft) of Bourne’s YA novel before this, The Places I’ve Cried in Public mixed in with her first adult book (which I dislike), How Do You Like Me Now? They all just feel interchangeable. The characters, the plots, the narrative style and their discourse.

April feels like the same character as the other protagonists in Bourne’s other novels. Very cut-and-paste like. And while this a novel about the female experience, I don’t think it does it justice when every male character in Bourne’s novels are also the same cut and paste dry cardboard characters.

I don’t know how I feel judging this based on her other work, but at the same time, having read the majority of the catalogue I am familiar with Bourne’s writing style and thus have a critical eye and opinion on the development of her writing. That I can’t ignore. Bourne, the more and more I read, just seems like she knows how to write the same characters and stories over and over. . . and that doesn’t insinuate good writing to me. (Basically just copying herself).

So it’s a really hard one, because the message of this book is important, and it has some really great moments that explore issues that all women can (sadly) relate to. But then, I find it lacks putting across the emotion it could have done, due to the not-so-greatly written characters (this novel could’ve had a wonderful supporting ensemble, but Bourne gives them a moment of screen time, tries to make them look *layered* and then moves on) and plot.

So this one is a 3 stars for me. I don’t entirely hate it. It’s decent. But I’m not head over heels for it. Nice idea, poor execution.

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for kindly giving me a copy of this novel  in exchange for an honest review. 

Posted in book reviews

The Places I’ve Cried in Public – Holly Bourne

Amelie loved Reese. And she thought he loved her. But she’s starting to realise love isn’t supposed to hurt like this. So now she’s retracing their story and untangling what happened by revisiting all the places he made her cry.

Because if she works out what went wrong, perhaps she can finally learn to get over him.

I was super-lucky and managed to win this in a raffle at YALC!

I honestly do not know how to express what I’m feeling without spoiling the book. But alas, I’ll try. I’ve seen so many other reviews of this label the book as ‘important’ and I 100% agree. This is a must-read. It wonderfully articulates what a toxic, abusive relationship is like and how easy it is for the abuser to manipulate and control someone and make them think that it’s love.

I felt so incredibly frustrated, sad, angry – SO! MANY! EMOTIONS! – at things that happened in this book. I wanted to scream at Amelia that he was manipulating her, to sit her down and tell her THAT IS NOT ROMANTIC, AMELIA. IT’S ABUSIVE. And what I LOVED was that the book made clear what these things were. There was no romanticising of it, even if past/loved-up Amelia did. Because the future/present her – who narrated in between the snippets – made that clear as did her friends and her therapist.

I feel like there’s a lot more I want to say and divulge in to, but I need time to gather my thoughts – so I will leave it here. But I will definitely be recommending this book.

Posted in book reviews

What Magic Is This? – Holly Bourne

Sophia, Mia and Alexis are clinging on to a spark of hope that maybe – just maybe – they’re special. But could they really be witches with the power to cast life-changing spells? When the three friends gather to cheer up heartbroken Sophia, they’re ready to put their theory to the test. But when long-held secrets are revealed and hard truths start to hit home, their night of bewitching quickly takes an unexpected turn …

What Magic Is This? at it’s heart, is a tale of friendship. It is the binding agent to this spell, one of the most important ‘ingredients’.

Sophia, Mia and Alexis are all well-rounded, distinct characters, each going on their own personal journey in the course of this novella. This was very well done, as this is such a short book, but it manages to create and follow through on a story arc for all three of the characters. The characters deal with a discourse on self-love and self-worth, mental health, and explore relationship dynamics both romantic and platonic. These are similar topics/issue that we all have dealt and deal with – therefore, making this book instantly relatable. And hopefully, as it did for me, end with a heart warming feeling that these are things you can grow, evolve and learn from.

However, I do think I would have enjoyed this more if I haven’t read so much of Holly’s other work, or read this in such a close time frame to The Places I’ve Cried in Public, as they all begin to feel very similar. The relationship between Sophia and Aiden in this felt like a very watered down relationship to the one within The Places I’ve Cried in Public. This doesn’t mean that Holly can’t write about the same themes and topics more than once, but I find that her catalogue is beginning to feel like the same idea, over and over again.

3/5 stars.

Posted in book reviews

It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

WARNING: SPOILERS

HOLLY BOURNE YOU GENIUS WOMAN.

I have had a great time with all the Holly Bourne novels I have read so far. My first read was Am I Normal Yet? which I absolutely loved and adored and encouraged me to finally seek help for my anxiety/ocd. I read that a time where I was doing my GCSE exams and my social anxiety went to an extreme, like pull your hair out kind of thing, and reading this book gave me that confidence to go and get help for it. #empowering

I am a feminist, so when I read What’s a Girl Gotta Do? And Lottie was doing and saying all the things I agreed with I teared up at parts because it was just like YES YES YES she gets it! She understands! Like yes! Call out this bullshit and educate!! Yes!! After I read that I felt extra EMPOWERED. It’s wonderful. And I want other girls, whether they’re young or old, to pick up a book like that and feel the same way. To feel empowered and unafraid to say “no” or to not smile, or to not conform to societal standards. To be THEM.

And now, I’ve read this. This takes on many issues, parental issues, self-harm, consent. It’s freaking feminist.

Now here is a side note: I hate that we have to actually call things “feminist”. Like oh “this is so freaking feminist”. And truly, feminist books can be ground breaking for defying rules laid out in literature that have deemed women characters as a certain way for hundreds of years. Look at that freaking literary canon, spot the women am I right? It just really angers me that we have to have this term for something like this, that we have to put a label on treating women like freaking human beings and letting them live their lives the way they want to. As Emer pointed out, it’s the same with diversity. When there’s diversity in a book we all applaud it because it’s like thank God, right? Thank God books are finally recognising there is something other than white men/hetero-normative relationships. But it’s so freaking upsetting that these things aren’t every day. That we can’t just read a book and naturally expect diversity / feminist views, you know??

Anyways, went slightly of track.

What I love about the way Holly Bourne writes is that she can talk about issues such as consent without it being preachy. It’s not like she sits there and is like right, I’m now going to lecture my audience on consent. No, she does it in an almost implicit way. She can make fun of it (god, the metaphors she used) but not in an offensive way. The humour she takes and the way it’s discussed doesn’t take away from the seriousness of what she is saying, but rather, you take in what she’s saying. And I think that’s brilliant. It’s not too heavy to scare people off from having these discussions (that some people have been brought up thinking talking about it is taboo) but also it’s not too light that it doesn’t get it’s point across. BRILLIANCE, I TELL YOU.

But my God, did I love this. I raced through this in just over three hours. It is WONDERFUL.

I guess if I had to criticise something it would be this: [I wish the situation with her mum was expanding upon. It’s mentioned when at the hospital that her mum would be seeing someone, and towards the end we get the sense that her mum is getting help and is getting better. I just feel like this would have been better if there could’ve been an actual conversation about what happened (the manic episodes, the alcoholism,
self-harm/suicide threats). However, the book doesn’t lose brownie points for not doing this.
I do think it leaves this off nicely, but maybe just could’ve done a little bit better. (hide spoiler)]

Also regarding the ending [I KNEW THEY WEREN’T GOING TO BE TOGETHER. I mean it literally freaking says it in the title pretty much. People only ever end up together like that in the movies. And how this book poked fun at every romance etc I was like Holly so isn’t going to give us the typical HEA (happily ever after) because that’s the point she’s trying to make. Not everything is that classic happily ever after, HOWEVER just because it’s not that doesn’t mean it can’t have a happy ending. And it was, I guess. Harry and Audrey ended things okay. I mean, do I wish they were together?? Yeah. Would it work out?? No. So I like it. And Audrey in that scene when she made that decision I was just like *thumbs up*. I don’t know, it was bittersweet. So I hate it, but I also love it. #walkingcontradiction. (hide spoiler)]

Also the female friendships in this. She has a great group of girl friends that are understanding and supportive and #Icry. That’s what I like to see.

I’m not sure if anyone else has read Our Chemical Hearts but this book sort of reminds me of that.

I think that’s all I have to say (Milo you can choke, Dougie I did want you to choke but not so much any more, Rosie you can also choke and burn in hell). I LOVED it. Well done Holly Bourne. Another great one. Now I’ve got to wait for my other buddy readers (Emer, Sam, Nkisha) to catch up so we can all talk about how epically awesome this is!

 

Posted in book reviews

How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne

‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.’ 

Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey?

There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot.

But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.

Her long-term boyfriend won’t even talk about marriage, but everyone around her is getting engaged and having babies. And when her best friend Dee – her plus one, the only person who understands the madness – falls in love, suddenly Tori’s in terrifying danger of being left behind.

When the world tells you to be one thing and turning thirty brings with it a loud ticking clock, it takes courage to walk your own path.

It’s time for Tori to practice what she’s preached, but the question is: is she brave enough?

The debut adult novel by bestselling author Holly Bourne is a blisteringly funny, honest and moving exploration of love, friendship and navigating the emotional rollercoaster of your thirties.

Thanks Netgalley for sending me this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

I’ve liked every single one of Holly Bournes novels that I have read. Am I Normal Yet?What’s a Girl Gotta Do? and most recently, It Only Happens in the Movies. All of these novels have held something special for me: whether it’s important and good discussions on mental health, feminism, consent, I have loved them all. Bourne has a distinct narrative voice: she is able to take serious issues and be brutally honest about them. There is no sugar coating, and it’s exactly the same within this one.

Bourne doesn’t sugarcoat sex. It’s not all magical. It’s not the romanticised portrayals you see on screen or often read about books. It’s honest. What I think is great about this is whether you’ve had no sex, a little sex, tons of sex, its having a conversation with you. It’s not lying to you and telling you if your not doing this your not doing it right / you have to do this. No. It’s opening that discussion up with it’s audience – whether YA, or adult – and I think that’s hella good. I find too often in YA and some of the adult books I have read (it’s not my fave genre) that everything is perfect and magical and problematic issues are pushed under the rug because *romance* and what Bourne does is stamp a big fat “NO” over that. This isn’t her saying that it can’t be like that, this is her saying that it DOESN’T have to be. Isn’t that great?

As I’ve said, I love how Bourne takes on her female characters. While throughout all of this I didn’t particularly love Tori, I appreciated what Bourne was doing with her character. The whole discussion on success and how to most people that means nothing, rather you have to be a mother, was heart wrenching. It sucks, because it’s true. Too often I see career women being degraded because they haven’t had kids yet / never want to, and somehow because of this they are “missing out”. That isn’t freaking fair. And also, that isn’t freaking feminism. Whole point of feminism is giving women A CHOICE. Just saying. And I like how Holly displays that in this – that is up to you when you want to make that choice, and your the one to take control of it.

Ah, the feminism in this.

Women OWN THEIR FREAKING SEXUALITY IN THIS. I love it. And when there is some slut-shaming it is REFUTED. But I love this. Women being allowed to own their freaking sexuality.

I also love this:

I’m sure he has good intentions and all, but I just cannot handle men who get applauded for not being an arsehole. It should not be rewarded, it should just be a given.

This reminds me of a discussion I was having the other day about how it’s sad we get excited about saying “wow! this book is so feminist/diverse!” like that’s something we are still excited about. All books should simply just be feministic without it having to be pointed out you know?? It should just be a given that going in to a book you’re going to have this.

But while I really enjoyed it, I can’t say I loved it.

– I feel like this book didn’t really have much of a plot. It definitely wasn’t a juicy enough plot to go on for as long as it did. For a while it really did just feel like I was reading someones diary about them whining about their day.
– While this book is very female power, I feel like it is let down by all it’s male characters who do act like pieces of crap. I mean Nigel was alright, there wasn’t much of him, he was just so bland. And Tom??? Arse wipe. I often find that with Holly Bourne books. There’s so much female power (which I love) but yeah.
– Something happens with Tori / Tom (I think that’s his name, I’ll just call him Rock man) that was NOT OKAY. And it’s not really elaborated on. Tori just feels bad and cries and then tells herself it’s all okay and tries to forget about it. No. . . I wish their was more discussion that just because your in a relationship doesn’t mean that’s okay. Same with her and something she does even though Rock Man is like “no”. It’s like !!! just don’t be a dick and be a bit more respectful, you know???
– Like I know the plot of this book was Tori / Rock Man and what shit was going on between them etc BUT I JUST WISHED THEY’D BREAK UP AFTER A PAGE.

I also think – and to no fault of Bournes – that this book wasn’t for me. I’m only 19, and considering this book was about feeling like you’ve wasted your twenties/regretting, I couldn’t really relate. I mean, I do feel like my teenage years have gone nowhere and that I probably have wasted most of them (no – I find staying at home and netflixing and reading is a perfect way to spend any of your decades) this wasn’t exactly what the book was about. So most of the time I did find it hard to connect, but I tip my hat off to Bourne for still keeping me reading despite the fact this novel wasn’t particularly for me.

So all in all, I did think this was a good debut to Bourne’s dip in the adult novel genre! While I do prefer her YA, I can say I did like this and will pick up anymore adult novels she writes.

Posted in general posts, other bookish posts

Anticipated Releases of 2017! Part 2!

Here I am, sitting here on my bed, thinking about all the upcoming books that are being released in the next month or so. Not too long ago I wrote an anticipated releases post, and that has my most-most anticipated. So basically the books I’ve been really, really, really excited for, but as time goes on I’ve found myself looking more forward to these books. So here they are!

  1. Dazzling Heights – Katharine McGee

I read the Thousandth Floor last year, after it came out. I really, really enjoyed it. I found it exciting and fun. It was filled with such drama – petty drama at times – and it was just brilliant. It was mindless fun. And I liked that. Ultimately literature aims to entertain and please and this certainly did that. And that ending . . . dramatic! It left on a bit of a cliffhanger – with everyone’s worlds colliding, and a death, and it was so suspenseful and I can’t wait to see how it unfolds in the second novel.

2. The Empress – S.J Kincaid

This book messed with my mind so much. I’m still not sure what happened and who I’m supposed to trust?? I hated this. One part of me, a large part, thought the twists and turns got so ridiculous and that it was getting sloppy. Like, really? It’s just too much and it’s getting confusing and the book doesn’t make sense. The other part of me was LIVING for this. I really liked the constant tonal shifts and how people would be deceptive. It was like YAAAS. It kept me on the edge. I liked it. That’s why I can’t wait for this, with everything that happened in the Diabolic I can’t wait to see how it all plays out – essentially it’s a refreshed story….but I can’t wait to see how the implications of the first book play out in this and how the characters grow. Will everyone end up murdering each other??? Probably.

3. A Semi-Definite List of Worst Nightmares – Krystal Sutherland

I loved Krystal Sutherland’s Our Chemical Hearts. It was funny and raw and just so real. It dealt with toxic relationships and how to say no and to let go of that. The characters were flawed and complicated and said wrong things and made bad decisions but this is what made it more real. It mirrored real life. It took these discussions of grief and toxic relationships, and while sometimes it was over dramatised and could be too romanticised, ultimately it dealt with it well. It offered a real world point of view that wasn’t perfect but made sure to translate something to the reader: it’s okay to let go. It’s okay to sometimes be selfish. Its just – there’s too much to say and this isn’t the place. But this is why I can’t wait to read this – because I’m so interested to see where Krystal Sutherland takes her next and I love her witty writing.

4. Shadowblack – Sebastien de Castell

The first book to this was so weird and random but also SO FREAKING FUN. It was a breath of fresh air really. I just really enjoyed it, and how unique the world felt. So I’m definitely excited for the second one.

5. The Gentleman’s Guide to Virtue and Vice – Mackenzi Lee

THE HYPE SURROUNDING THIS BOOK IS MAKING ME HYPED. I’ve heard SOOOO many good things about this from so many people in my Goodreads friends list so obviously I want to read it and to be able to join in on the discussion.

6. The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding – Alexandra Bracken

TWO WORDS: ALEXANDRA BRAKCEN. That’s enough to sell me on this book. The Darkest Minds trilogy is one of my favourites, and I really loved and enjoyed the Passenger duology too. Therefore, I will obviously be reading this and I’m excited to see how she transitions from writing YA to middle grade.

7. It Only Happens in the Movies – Holly Bourne

HOLLY BOURNE IS FREAKING FABULOUS. Her novels on mental health and feminism and friendship are the BEST. I love her and she’s a role model – therefore, once again, it’s quite obvious that I’ll definitely be reading this.

 

For now – that’s the list I can think of. There are so many other books that I am side-eyeing to read, and I possibly don’t have time to mention them all, but these are the few coming out September/October time!

What books coming out in September are you ready and waiting for?? Tower of Dawn??? Me too!!