‘Finding Audrey’ by Sophie Kinsella [Book Review]

Over the past few days I have absolutely blazed through Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella for the 2017 Reading Challenge. This novel had been sitting on my shelf since its release 18 months ago, but it was its inclusion in the Zoella Book Club that finally convinced me to pick it up (and subsequently devour it).

Title: Finding Audrey
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Released: 2015
Pages: 280
Category: #27 A book with a title that’s a character’s name
Rating: 7/10

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Review:
“I think what I’ve realized is, life is all about climbing up, slipping down, and picking yourself up again. And it doesn’t matter if you slip down. As long as you’re kind of heading more or less upwards. That’s all you can hope for. More or less upwards.”

Finding Audrey is the story of self-titled protagonist, Audrey, and her battle against crippling anxiety. Housebound following a life-changing incident at school, Audrey’s world exists solely within her immediate family, that is until her older brother Frank brings a friend over.

The novel features some important themes, including mental health issues, bullying and friendship. The characters are well developed, and each has distinct flaws, making them much more relevant.

Whilst the story arc and resolution to the novel were predictable, the characters were wonderfully created and allowed the story to progress in a natural manner. Additionally, the supporting characters played bigger than anticipated roles, which was pleasantly surprising. This was my first read by Sophie Kinsella, but I will definitely be exploring more of her works – I’ve heard many good things about the Shopaholic series!

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I’ve Never Read

January 24: Top Ten Books I Can’t Believe I’ve Never Read
This week’s prompt was a freebie, so as per usual when these weeks roll around I looked back at previous TTT’s (long before I began writing my own lists) and I stumbled across this one. Naturally this topic led me towards the classics, of which I confess I have read embarrassingly few.

1. 1984 by George Orwell
I began reading this when I was eighteen (and I did enjoy it) but A Levels got in the way so I never finished it. Considering its recent boom in popularity, now seems like the perfect time to get reacquainted with Winston and Big Brother.

2. Lord Of The Flies by William Golding
I’ve been led to believe that The Hunger Games is in part a modern day version of this novel, and that alone is reason enough for me to read it.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
In 2015, I read a retelling of this novel which I thoroughly enjoyed, so I hope the original is as entertaining and enthralling.

4. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I’m not ashamed to admit that this novel intimidates me a bit, but considering I’m studying for a Masters in English I really should have read this one.

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
Last year I finally read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, and I need to discover more of the ‘Bell’ sisters.

6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
I love the story and the musical, but I think the simple fact that it is Dickens has intimidated me.

7. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
My Mum loves this novel, but despite owning it since I was a kid, I never picked it up – I think I was more interested in wizards as a child.

8. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
So many schools have this as compulsory reading but it somehow didn’t make it onto my syllabus, and as a result I’ve never felt the need to read it.

9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
I love dystopian YA, and I want to try and expand my horizons this year, so this adult example of the genre seems like a good place to start.

10. The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I received the complete “trilogy” for Christmas, so I plan on at least reading the first book in 2017.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their blog and get involved!

For more content, visit @charlottebibliophile on Goodreads, Instagram and YouTube

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‘Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them’ by J.K. Rowling [Book Review]

One of my most anticipated movies of 2016 was J.K. Rowling’s first attempt at screenwriting, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them, and when I learnt it would be released as a screenplay, it shot to the top of my TBR list for the 2017 Reading Challenge. The movie absolutely didn’t disappoint, but having never read a screenplay before, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect.

Title: Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
Author: J.K. Rowling
Released: 2016
Pages: 294
Category: #12 A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read
Rating: 6/10

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Review:
“Newt Scamander: ‘My philosophy is that worrying means you suffer twice.’”

Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is a screenplay adapted from the “textbook” of the same name. Starring magi-zoologist Newt Scamander, the plot follows his arrival in New York City accompanied by a mysterious suitcase of beasts, who escape and cause havoc amongst wizards and no-maj’s (American non-magic folk).

As a screenplay, it is obviously speech heavy, but it also includes a large number of stage directions and location information, adding to the overall feel of the story. The characterisation is where this book really shines: Newt is the loyal, loveable loner, and the three supporting characters, Tina, Queenie and Jacob, are all truly wonderful individuals.

I didn’t enjoy reading the screenplay anywhere near as much as I loved watching the film, but it was fun to rediscover the characters before the movie is released on DVD/Blu-Ray. The plot is also less impressive than other J.K. Rowling/Robert Galbraith works – I think the true magic of this piece of writing is in the cinematography of the film itself.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Underrated Books I’ve Read In The Past Year

January 17: Top Ten Underrated Books I’ve Read In The Past Year
How do you define “underrated?” My definition was a purely mathematical one: any book that has received fewer than 20,000 ratings on Goodreads. Bearing in mind that some of the most rated books include Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (>4.3m ratings) and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (>3.1m ratings), I felt 20,000 was a moderate number.

1. This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (<19,000 ratings)
An incredibly harrowing tale of a school shooting in the USA, this novel is told from the perspectives of multiple students and sees their individual stories intertwine in the most interesting of ways.

2. George by Alex Gino (<12,000 ratings)
This novel feels so important: centring around a middle-school student stuck in the wrong body, it follows George’s journey of transition and acceptance to Melissa.

3. Unboxed by Non Pratt (<1,000 ratings)
There don’t seem to be enough YA novels that star friendship above romance, but this book is fantastic in focusing on one of the most important relationships.

4. One by Sarah Crossan (<6,000 ratings)
This is a free verse poem about true love, friendship and sacrifice. The characters are well developed and the plot feels incredibly heartfelt and raw.

5. Confessions Of A GP by Dr. Benjamin Daniels (<4,000 ratings)
A memoir about many of the hilarious issues GPs face on a day-t0-day basis, this non-fiction is both educational and entertaining.

6. Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell (<10,000 ratings)
This novella is super sweet, featuring “nerdy” characters being themselves. It’s about finding friendships where you’d least expect them.

7. Day 21 by Kass Morgan (<13,000 ratings)
I adored the first novel in The 100 series, and this second volume was no different. The characters are well developed and the plot is fast-paced.

8. Hogwarts: An Incomplete and Unreliable Guide by J.K. Rowling (<12,000 ratings)
Late last year, JKR released three Hogwarts eBooks, and this was (in my opinion) the best of the bunch. Any excuse to learn more about the wizarding world.

9. Weird Things Customers Say In Bookshops by Jen Campbell (<12,000 ratings)
A nonfiction book featuring all the ridiculous comments customers make in bookshops, some of these are simply unbelievable.

10. Foe by J.M. Coetzee (<7,000 ratings)
A re-telling set post-Robinson Crusoe, this novel explores elements of magical realism and the workings of the mind: it’s rather strange, yet a compulsive read.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their blog and get involved!

For more content, visit @charlottebibliophile on Goodreads, Instagram and YouTube

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‘The Guy Next Door’ by Meg Cabot [Book Review]

I am killing it this year; only eleven days into the year and the 2017 Reading Challenge, and I’ve just finished my third book (albeit a slightly disappointing one) – at that rate I’ll read 100 books in 2017!

Title: The Guy Next Door
Author: Meg Cabot
Released: 2002
Pages: 374
Category: #49 A book you got from a used book sale
Rating: 4/10

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Review:
“But in order for people to be happy, sometimes they have to take risks. It’s true those risks can put them in danger of being hurt.”

Small-town girl Mel lives in bustling New York City, working for a newspaper as a gossip columnist. Her life was uneventful until her wealthy elderly neighbour, Mrs. Friedlander, was ruthlessly attacked in home and left for dead. Cue the introduction of John, Mel’s neighbour’s (not) nephew, who moves in to take care of Mrs. Friedlander’s pets.

The novel is told entirely through email exchanges between approximately a dozen characters. Unfortunately, this lowers the tone of the plot, and it feels incredibly dated. Whilst this story is intended as a romance/comedy, with a side of crime/detective work, it fails in its delivery: it is simultaneously all and nothing. That being said, it is an incredibly easy to read contemporary, and is one of those books that’s perfect to read during a slump or on holiday.

I first read this novel about ten years ago and thought it was hilarious. I went into my re-read hoping that my love for it as a thirteen(ish) year old would be as relevant and amusing to my twenty-two year old self (I began reading this one a while back, I’m well aware I am now twenty-three *sheesh*). Unfortunately, that was not the case. Remarkably however, I blazed through the last 200 pages in a few days; it’s just that kind of a compulsive read. Will I read more of Meg Cabot’s novels? Yes. Do I believe them to be overly well written or possess miraculous life lessons? No, but sometimes you need a bit of cheese in your life.

N.B. Technically I picked this book up second hand from eBay, not a specific used book sale, but it amounts to the same thing.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To

January 10: Top Ten 2016 Releases I Meant To Read But Didn’t Get To
I am notoriously bad at reading new releases; I buy anticipated books as soon as they come out, but they are then left gathering dust on my ever expanding bookshelf. In 2017, I want to be more on top of reading books as and when I buy them!

1. Passenger by Alexandra Bracken
The probable reason for having not yet read this book is that I generally like to read books and series in release date order, so having not read Alexandra Bracken’s first series, The Darkest Minds, I’m loathed to jump into her new series.

2. The Shadow Queen by C.J. Redwine
In 2016, I wasn’t overly interested in reading fantasy for some reason, but I’d like to think that this year I’m going to read a little more widely again.

3. A Study In Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro
I was super excited when I heard about this novel (and not only because it’s got my name in the title): I love Sherlock Holmes and murder mystery novels, so this YA novel sounds right up my street.

4. Flawed by Cecelia Ahern
For similar reasons as Passenger, despite this being Cecelia Ahern’s YA debut, I feel it necessary to read her entire bibliography before diving into her new release.

5. When We Collided by Emery Lord
This YA contemporary was big last summer, and sounds amazing, but other books took priority. First world problems.

6. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson
Another YA contemporary that I’ve been anticipating for a while. I’ve read two Morgan Matson books to date and I really enjoyed the unrivalled fun her novels provide.

7. This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
I own a number of V.E. Schwab books, but for some reason I’ve not read a single one. After hearing her on two panels and meeting her at YALC, as well as following her on Twitter, I want to finally jump into her magical world.

8. The Call by Peadar Ó Guilín
This novel was a booksplosion book of the month last year; it’s horror elements sound creepy and wonderful, and the dystopian theme is right up my street.

9. The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon
I read Everything Everything last year, which I adored, so I hope I’ll love Nicola Yoon’s second novel too.

10. The Chemist by Stephenie Meyer
This was one of my most anticipated books from the moment I heard about it. I love crime/thriller novels, and since The Twilight Saga is one of my favourite series, I have high hopes for this one.

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish. Check out their blog and get involved!

For more content, visit @charlottebibliophile on Goodreads, Instagram and YouTube

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‘Ask The Passengers’ by A.S. King [Book Review]

My intention for the early weeks and months of the year and the 2017 Reading Challenge is to reduce the number of books I am “currently reading”. Although I’ve always read multiple books at a time, my pile of current read stands nineteen books tall (eighteen now), which is excessive even for me.

Today I finished reading a book I received for Christmas *thanks Santa* that had been recommended to me. Dealing with the difficult issue of questioning one’s sexuality, there were things I loved about this particular book and other issues I didn’t overly connect with.

Title: Ask The Passengers
Author: A.S. King
Released: 2012
Pages: 293
Category: #51 A book about a difficult topic
Rating: 6/10

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Review:
“Dude, what matters is if you’re happy. What matters is your future. What matters is that we get out of here in one piece. What matters is finding the truth of our own lives, not caring about what other people think is the truth of us!”

Ask the Passengers is a coming of age/YA LGBT novel: it’s a book about discovery of self, true relationships and the importance of love. Our protagonist, Astrid Jones, is a philosophical individual, intent on not being placed unceremoniously into a defined category. Questioning her sexuality, she conjures up Greek philosopher, Socrates, whom she affectionately dubs Frank, and together the two work through Astrid’s thought processes.

The novel incorporates magical realism and intensely flawed characters, making it thoroughly gritty. However, there are a lack of events and a deal of repetition, meaning that at times the book dragged.

Simply put, I was expecting more of a story than this book actually gave me. I liked the characters (and hated some of them at the same time), and the issues faced by Astrid and her friends felt very real, but the resolution felt subpar. That being said, it was clear that “discovery” was the primary theme of the novel, and in terms of those parameters, it was successful.

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