The bookworm in me has officially been resuscitated. I’ve always been a voracious reader and loved nothing more than to snuggle up in an oversized hoodie with a cup of tea and a book (I can’t believe how delightfully British that sounds – guess I chose the right location for uni huh?).
Sadly, an annoying thing called grade 12 and then life happened and long story short blah blah blah I didn’t get the chance to read for fun for a long time. Thankfully, lockdown has been a small blessing in that I’ve been able to resurrect one of my favourite hobbies! I have all the time in the world (not really but more so than before) to dust off my stack of -to-be-read books and make the pile smaller.
Now I’ve already done a review of some of the books I read during lockdown (which you can check out by clicking here) but I had so much fun doing it that I think I’m going to do book reviews on the blog more often. Just a reminder, I am a romance lover so majority of the books I read are filled with happily ever afters and tend to fall in the romantic fiction/YA/romcom genres. However, I am trying to read more widely so if this becomes a regular occurrence, look out for my non-fluffy book choices 😊 Okay now that the admin is sorted, here are my reviews for the books I’ve read this month (not as many as I’d hoped but better than nothing right?)
YA #1 romcom: Theatrical by Maggie Harcourt
Published: June 2018, Usborne Publishing Ltd
Genres: young adult fiction, romance
Blurb (courtesy of Goodreads):
“Hope dreams of working backstage in a theatre, and she’s determined to make it without the help of her famous costume designer mum. So when she lands an internship on a major production, she tells no one. But with a stroppy Hollywood star and his hot young understudy upstaging Hope’s focus, she’s soon struggling to keep her cool… and her secret.”
My thoughts: There was a comment saying that Maggie Harcourt is the British response to Rainbow Rowell and they definitely weren’t wrong. This book has all the elements of a fun, sweet and romantic YA novel – family, finding yourself, romance, awkwardness and following a passion.
IT WAS SO CUTE, FUN AND RELATABLE I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN!
I think what made this book such a great read for me was all the theatre, and how it was a love letter to both those on stage and off stage. I’ve always loved the theatre – I’ve watched dozens of shows and participated in a few too and going to the theatre is almost like stepping into a book. It was fantastic to see the theatre through Hope’s eyes, and read about a book that highlights both the magic and insane amount of work and dedication goes into a performance.
This is my first Maggie Harcourt read and I absolutely adored her narrative style because it perfectly captures the (somewhat geeky) teenage voice. I loved that she captured the awkwardness but also ‘internal voice’ of stress, overthinking and more that I definitely experienced in my teen years – it made the character so much more relatable and that for me is a crucial element in a book. This book also had a great, refreshing family drama dynamic, the romance between Luke and Hope may have had some cliched elements (but what YA novel doesn’t?) but their romance was adorkable and interesting. And finally, who doesn’t love a story about someone finding and following their passion? As a fellow geek, arts and culture lover and corny romance enthusiast, this was a great book and I’m already thinking of rereading it 😊
Romance: The Cherry Tree Café by Heidi Swain
Published: July 2015
Genres: Fiction, romance novel, contemporary romance
Blurb (courtesy of Goodreads):
“Cupcakes, crafting and love at The Cherry Tree Cafe… Perfect feel-good summer reading for fans of Great British Bake-Off
Lizzie Dixon‘s life feels as though it’s fallen apart. Instead of the marriage proposal she was hoping for from her boyfriend, she is unceremoniously dumped, and her job is about to go the same way. So, there’s only one option: to go back home to the village she grew up in and to try to start again.
Her best friend Jemma is delighted Lizzie has come back home as she has just bought a little cafe and Lizzie’s sewing skills are just what she needs to help get it ready for the grand opening.
With a new venture and a new home, things are looking much brighter for Lizzie. But can she get over her broken heart, and will an old flame reignite a love from long ago…?”
My thoughts: Heidi Swain is one of my favourite adult romance authors, probably because I’m old fashioned and a sucker for traditional love stories. Also because I’m a lover of all things British (blame my obsession with Enid Blyton as a child), the fact that these books are based in picturesque English locations is very appealing to me. This book is the first in the series based in the English village of Wynbridge and while the books can be read in any order (I’ve already read most of the other ones so it just shows you don’t have to read them chronologically), the same characters keep featuring so reading them in order will help you know the back stories of the different characters.
Heidi Swain is fantastic at crafting feel-good stories with just the right amount of romance, friendship and British charm. I couldn’t put this book down because it was great to finally read the story of how the Cherry Tree Café came to be, the characters were so believable and who doesn’t love a romance filled with cakes and crafting?
*Just a note, if you enjoy books like this I cannot recommend the rest of this series enough to you, especially since many of the other books are set during Christmas time and I just feel that the festive Christmas setting adds so much more sweetness and charm so if you love romances, good friendships, a picturesque backdrop and Christmas, you should definitely read the whole series.
YA #2 fiction: Am I normal yet? By Holly Bourne
Published: August 2015
Genres: Fiction, Young adult, Contemporary, Health/mental health, feminism
Blurb (courtesy of Goodreads):
“All Evie wants is to be normal. She’s almost off her meds and at a new college where no one knows her as the girl-who-went-crazy. She’s even going to parties and making friends. There’s only one thing left to tick off her list…
But relationships are messy – especially relationships with teenage guys. They can make any girl feel like they’re going mad. And if Evie can’t even tell her new friends Amber and Lottie the truth about herself, how will she cope when she falls in love?
My thoughts: I ABSOLUTELY LOVED THIS BOOK!!!
It’s often really hard to find books that talk about mental illness without romanticising it or getting it wrong but that certainly wasn’t the case with this book. I’ve always loved Holly Bourne – she has such a fantastic style and a great way of incorporating a witty narrative with relatable characters and important issues. What makes her books even better is that they are incredibly real.
All the YA books of hers that I’ve read are not the typical formulaic love stories – she may allude to the tropes but she certainly makes every book her own by making the characters refreshingly normal and not giving them a smooth love story (the friendships and romances are more unpredictable and messy – much like in reality).
Am I normal yet? Is the story of a girl with severe OCD and I really appreciated how Holly managed to capture the internal voice of a teenager with a mental illness and explore the thoughts of such an individual as they go through their day. It’s hard hitting and raw and real (both when it comes to the mental illness and feminism aspects) and that’s what makes this book such a fantastic read. What’s great though is that she can also wrap such important issues (like deeper truths about living with a mental illness and feminism in a genuine way) in bundles of humour without coming across as insensitive. What’s more is the characters genuinely felt like real teenagers, and all the relationships and family dynamics were well thought out. I really think this is such an important read, as it touches on so many crucial issues but also because it manages to keep you in stitches/almost in tears while shedding light on mental illness and feminism and highlighting the value of friendship and acceptance.
Non fluffy fiction book: Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine by Gail Honeyman
Genres: Romance novel, Psychological fiction
Blurb (courtesy of Goodreads):
“No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.
Smart, warm, uplifting, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
the only way to survive is to open your heart.”
My thoughts: Okay so this is definitely not the type of book I would normally read. In fact, it was given to me as a present by a close friend in high school and I hadn’t gotten round to reading it until now. It’s an incredibly profound novel and is beautifully written in a narrative style that suits the protagonist perfectly.
Now this book certainly isn’t my ‘style’ and it was quite challenging to get into it because of the voice of the main character (I struggled to get into the story itself) but once I’d stumbled through the first 100 pages I can understand why the book is so well acclaimed. The book tells the story of a socially-inept adult and her journey to some sense of normalcy, and Eleanor’s character is so socially clueless and literal it is painful at times … but also endearing. Underneath this surface level humour, it’s actually incredibly sad to see the life Eleanor lives. It was packed full of emotion and took me on a roller coaster without being cliched or predictable. Even though this was a well-written book and I would definitely recommend it to someone who enjoys these types of stories, I probably won’t read it again (but don’t let that stop you from giving it a look).
And so there you have it. I’ve really been enjoying all the additional time I have for reading and now doing these book reviews to reflect back on my thoughts and what about the books made them so enjoyable for me. After all, I also hope and dream to become a writer and one of the best ways to learn is to read and figure out what writers you admire (the ones who write the type of books you want to write) do to make their books so fantastic. It’s almost like homework in a sense and I’m absolutely loving it. As always, thank you guys so much for reading – please don’t forget to hit that little like button, share with your friends and subscribe!
Before I go though, have you read any of these books? What were your thoughts? Also, I’m always on the hunt for more books to read (YA, romcom and romance, but also some of the non-fluffy variety) so do you have any recommendations for me? I’d love to hear xx
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx
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