How I became a Famous Novelist

How I Became a Famous NovelistHow I Became a Famous Novelist by Steve Hely

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This brilliant novel is the perfect book for any aspiring novelist to read. Especially helpful just before starting NaNoWriMo!
Pete Tarslaw hasn’t done very much with his life, so when he learns that his previous girlfriend is happily announcing her engagement, he figures the only way to deal with this reality is to become super successful. And his chosen method to reach fame, fortune and fantastical sexual exploits is to write a best selling novel. I mean, seriously, how hard can it be?
Steve Hely takes more than a passing jab at the state of literature and the publishing world in his wickedly funny debut novel. No one is safe from his sharp wit. He makes fun of writers, publishers, teachers of writing courses, screen writers, book reviewers and more. There are even those who believe that some of the characters are based on real life people. His sarcasm is biting, bordering on caustic but hilariously true none the less.
Take the time to read this New York Best Seller, totally worth squinting to read the fine print.

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The Last Good Girl

The Last Good Girl (Anna Curtis, #5)The Last Good Girl by Allison Leotta

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first in the series that I’ve ever read but it is number five in the series. Kudos to Allison Leotta that she write this well enough that little background story needed to be known for a first time reader to understand.
Told using a variety of communication methods – straight narrative, emails and transcripts of videos, the story unveils itself. In her first week on the university campus Emily Shapiro is at the very least, sexually assaulted by Dylan Highsmith. After putting in a formal complaint about being raped, Emily struggles to find her way through the social politics at the university. Another altercation between Emily and Dylan occurs outside a popular bar and that is the last anyone sees of Emily. As the story unfolds its revealed that Dylan has a peccadillo for drugging women and raping them. Unravelling the mess is prosecutor Anna Curtis and Samantha Randazzo, a team who have worked together previously.
This isn’t solely the story of the crime investigation but also follows the personal life of Anna Curtis in which a love triangle appears to be developing. But the romance is definitely second fiddle in this book.
There is a lot of police procedural and in court action also as the author Leotta was a former federal sex crimes prosecutor in Washington DC and she knows her subject well.
This is a book for parents, students off to college and fans of really good crime novels.

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Paper Towns

Paper TownsPaper Towns by John Green

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is basically a nerdy kid who has an obsession with the It Girl of his high school who thinks she is better than everyone else, he just can’t see it.
Quentin is awkward and a band geek who isn’t actually in the band. He is, in a word, dull. Margo is popular, quirky and is oh so beautiful. But she is also unstable and vindictive. Margo and Quentin spend a night together acting out all of Margo’s acts of revenge (that to be fair, might have deserved some form of revenge, but not to this level) and then Margo disappears, leaving a trail of clues like breadcrumbs behind her which Quentin is obsessive about. After many failed attempts, Quentin finally figures out the clues and knows where Margo is hiding out. Cue Quentin and his friends, Ben, Radar and Laci go on a ridiculously dangerous cross country drive for 20 something hours to find Margo squatting in an empty barn bitching about life and what it entails. One can ponder the thought that maybe Margo had issues with her mental health that her family was unable or unwilling to confront or help. Quentin’s family are so pleased that they got their perfect son to graduation but fail to spend any quality time with him or they would have discovered Quentin had serious issues with boundaries.
This is a fairly typical story about teenagers left to their own devises too long and explores the standard rights of passage to adulthood – or to college bratishness at the very least.
After reading The Fault in Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines, I was expecting much more from the novel, but it fails to deliver. The characters lack likeability, the plot moved too slowly and in the end it was just a tad boring.

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The A-Z of You and Me

The A to Z of You and MeThe A to Z of You and Me by James   Hannah

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book takes place in a hospice, so you know things are pretty bad for the protagonist. It isn’t instantly clear why Ivo is in there, just that he is young enough to still have a life before him if things had taken a different direction; if different choices had been made.
We are shown Ivo’s past life in snippets of memories conjured up by playing the A-Z game suggested by Sheila, the nurse in charge of his care. In this game you think of a body part and then recall the strongest or best memory you have for that body part. Deftly James Hannah takes us through the troubled past of Ivo to lead is to the point of death. Its never preachy, not nor is it full of saccharine sweetness of false humour, of stupid decisions.
There are a strong cast of other characters who are an important part of the story. Mia, who fights to save him and Mal, Becca, Laura and Kelvin who appeared to be hell bent on taking Ivo down with them. Sheila, the hospice nurse is a strongly written character who really portrays the calmness of a nurse who specialises in helping people die with dignity exudes.
Ivo isn’t a nice character who you bond with as a reader, he is a junkie and indeed the more you learn the less sympathy you feel. His excuse for taking drugs and not looking after his diabetic self was almost always connected to his girlfriend Mia not being at his beck and call because she was working as a student nurse and he was bored. Sure his father died when he was a young child, but surely there comes a time when you have to take responsibility for your own behaviour?
This is a gentle yet strong look at what life sometimes happens amid youthful stupid decisions. It is a powerful book that makes the reader come to grips with their own judgmentally .
“..the lately living and the due-to-be dead” page 148
Drug usage is insinuated but not fully expressed.

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The Course of Love

The Course of LoveThe Course of Love by Alain de Botton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

November is non-fiction month on BookTube and although classified as a work of fiction, the narrator of this book gives enough non-fiction insight into what a relationship takes to warrant it acceptable on my mind as non-fiction.
It follows the life of Rabih and Kirsten (Mostly told from Rabih’s point of view) as to what they thought love meant as a teenager, their courtship and life beyond the saying of “I do.”
Told in five main themes, (Romanticism, Ever After, Children, Adultery and Beyond Romanticism) we have a third person narrative explain the life journey that Rabih and Kirsten go through, liberally interspersed with analysis, psychology or philosophical insights to each situation.
More than once I found myself having ‘a-ha’ moments as De Botton looks at situations from both sides of the coin. It does take some getting used to, these insights or remarks, when first embarking on reading this book, as the remarks would seem to interrupt the flow of the story. But as one goes deeper into the novel, one cannot help but gain greater insights to the situations the couple find themselves in.
“The best cure for love is to get to know them better.” page 177
Alain De Botton has written a number of non-fiction books and speaks publically about the everyday matters of life and is probably the only philosopher I’ve ever had the time of day for.
“Love is a skill, not just an enthusiasm.” page 198
I read this book in one sitting. This is a book I would highly recommend anyone wanting to have, or be in an actual relationship. Short, sharp and witty, it is, I’m sure, going to become a favoured book to stand the test of time.
Brilliant.

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The Girl on the Cliff

The Girl on the CliffThe Girl on the Cliff by Lucinda Riley

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Grania Ryan has recently suffered a mid-term miscarriage and has fled her life in New York to return to her native homeland of Ireland. In the middle of a storm Grania meets Aurora Lisle, a little girl with a very adult take on the world. This meeting leads to Alexander Devonshire, Aurora’s handsome father.
There are some issues I have with this book. Troubles within the book are far too easily worked out. It seems that Grania is the saviour of Alexander and Aurora and brings peace of mind just by simply being there.
The Girl on the Cliff weaves both contemporary and historical storylines together. The historical part of the story is told through old letters and then a good old chinwag between mother and daughter. Its a romance novel and a tragedy. Two families, the Ryan’s and the Lisle, are bound together for over 100 years, but the only way to make sense of the book is to study the family tree that is a hidden part way through the book. Without the family tree provided by the narrator, I would still be trying to make sense of the in’s and out’s of the two families.
I found that the timeline of the historical part of the story slow in some parts and then great swathes of time were covered in the space of a few pages, making for an uneven journey.
Another issue I had with this book was the complete trust Alexander put in Grania after only meeting her twice. One has to ask if a millionaire would really leave the care of their only child to a women with no training or references. To me it is highly doubtable. And the fact that Jeremy didn’t even flinch over Mary and Anna’s story just seems too simplistic.
There are downsides of this novel. But once again Lucinda Riley has written a grand story about family secrets and love. Leave behind all thoughts of reality and enjoy the overly Irishness of the Ryan family. Suspend reality and just imagine holding onto a winning lottery ticket that comes in the shape of a little girl.
Read this book because you need a few hours of escapism and this book is just right. Not up to the standard I’ve come to expect from Riley.

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All the Light We Cannot See

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I know I should love this book; its a Pulitzer Prize Winner for goodness sakes, but I just found the book rather mundane. Pedestrian. It didn’t grab my heart and make me hope that the book would never end. I enjoyed it, but…..
Marie-Laure is French, 12 and blind. But I found the depiction of blindness better in “Star Gazing” by Linda Gillard. The terror of being blind and in a new city during a hostile invasion was never really portrayed in this story. I never really thought of Marie-Laure as a child, it felt like she was 15 or 16 the whole way through the story.
The constant jumping around of time periods wasn’t poetic, it was annoying. We would jump from the start to the end and then the middle of the story with no rhyme or reason.
Werner is an orphan living with a French nun in Germany. A natural talent with radios and mathematics, Werner is destined to be a miner in his home town until he is chosen to enter an elite school run by the Nazi’s. Far from being his saving grace, it is a lesson in brutality, but this doesn’t result on Werner either embracing then Nazi Party or pulling away from it in disgust. These two characters are also joined by an older figure who is looking for a jewel beyond compare. He is unlikeable despite being afflicted with cancer, used by the author to make this character more sympathetic. Marie-Laure and Werner are destined to meet and its through the miracle of the radio that it happens. It just felt too obvious.
This isn’t a book that deals with the cruelty of war. Life doesn’t seem particularly hard for the residents of Saint-Malo who are invaded by the German war machine. The terrible risks in being part of the Resistance was never explored even in a fleeting manner. After 20 years of being a recluse (from World War One) Uncle Etienne is miraculously able to leave his house when the situation demanded it. It just felt incredibly fake.
I can understand why so many people fall in love with this book, but it felt too plodding, the cruelty of war was glossed over and make it in the end, an unsatisfying read.

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