Review: The Diary of a Bookseller, Shaun Bythell

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Star rating: 4/5

Synopsis: This is, as the title suggests, the diary of a bookseller at The Book Shop, Scotland’s largest second hand bookshop. Bythell refers to himself as the real-life Bernard Black, and his diaries reflect the customers, staff, and general life of a second hand bookshop.

Review: Despite being simple diary entries discussing the events of the day in the shop, I absolutely could not put this book down. Bythell is cutting in his wit and paints a completely un-glamorous picture of the life of a bookseller, stuffed with characters so bizzare they could be nothing but real. Between rants about Kindles and Amazon, the escapades of the Captain (an increasingly fat cat), book deals, and quips about particularly annoying customers, Bythell reminds us that bookshops, although still very much alive, are something worth fighting to save.

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Review: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore by Matthew Sullivan

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Star rating: 4/5

Synopsis: Lydia, a bookseller at the Bright Ideas Bookstore, finds one of her favouritebut troubled patrons dead in the shop. After finding a photo of herself at her 10th birthday party on his body, Lydia has to revisit a horrifying event in her past, as well as try to solve the riddles Joey left for her between the pages of his books.

Review: A thriller set around a bookshop. Who knew? This book is fast paced and filled with suspense, but still has substance – with a great cast of characters, an intricate plot that slowly comes together, this book is both gripping and heartbreaking in the best possible way. Aside from one character (which, honestly, the book could have done without and the entire plot would have stayed the same) this was a near faultless book and a great blend of genres that I haven’t encountered before.

 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

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Star rating: 5/5

Synopsis: A young woman falls quickly for a widower she meets in Monte Carlo, and accompanies him back to his estate in the west country, Manderley. There she struggles to fit into his world and feels constantly shadowed by the ghost of his first wife, Rebecca.

Review: This book is hands down a new favourite. The writing is very gothic in style and extremely atmospheric, with du Maurier’s use of repetition descriptive passages making it seem as though Manderley somewhere that I’ve visited many times. There’s excellents twists and turns in the plot, and the journey of the shy and awkward narrator is crushingly relatable. Definitely the kind of book best read under a blanket with a glass of whiskey.

Review: The Accidental by Ali Smith

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Star Rating: 2.5/5

Synopsis: A hugely dysfunctional family go on holiday to Norfolk, where a new age hippy type called Amber inserts herself into their home and changes their lives.

Review: I just felt like I needed more from this book. The writing was experimental, but nothing particularly jumped out at me, the characters plot lines were fairly interesting, but never seemed to own up to the consequences of their actions, and there was teasing at some themes around sex and sexuality that I think were just a bit too below the surface that I didn’t quite receive the full impact of that exploration. Usually I love short books but I felt like there was another 100 pages missing somewhere.

Review: Coffee Boy, Austin Chant

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After graduation, Kieran expected to go straight into a career of flipping burgers—only to be offered the internship of his dreams at a political campaign. But the pressure of being an out trans man in the workplace quickly sucks the joy out of things, as does Seth, the humorless campaign strategist who watches his every move.

Soon, the only upside to the job is that Seth has a painful crush on their painfully straight boss, and Kieran has a front row seat to the drama. But when Seth proves to be as respectful and supportive as he is prickly, Kieran develops an awkward crush of his own—one which Seth is far too prim and proper to ever reciprocate.

CONTENT WARNING: scenes of a graphic sexual nature, mild transphobia

Why I picked this book up:

I was in the mood for something quick, fun, and fluffy, and I thought this romance would be perfect.

The bad:

At 90 pages, I only wish this book could have been longer. I loved Kieran and his self-assured sarcastic personality and could have read a full book about his internship and about him getting into politics.

The good:

Funny and warm, this book was a beautifully constructed mini romance. The characters were flawed and believable, and did a great job of illustrating older and younger members of the queer community and their reactions to labels, and also showed how even straight liberals can be accidentally homophobic or transphobic without the correct knowledge. The sex scenes were also well written without resorting to cliches or overly euphemistic language, which was refreshing. I’m excited to read some more of Chant’s other novellas, and hope he goes on to write more full length fiction in the future.

Overall rating: 4/5

Countless, Karen Gregory

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When Hedda discovers she is pregnant, she doesn’t believe she could ever look after a baby. The numbers just don’t add up. She is young, and still in the grip of an eating disorder that controls every aspect of how she goes about her daily life. She’s even given her eating disorder a name – Nia. But as the days tick by, Hedda comes to a decision: she and Nia will call a truce, just until the baby is born. 17 weeks, 119 days, 357 meals. She can do it, if she takes it one day at a time …

Heartbreaking and hopeful by turns, Karen Gregory’s debut novel is a story of love, heartache and human resilience. And how the things that matter most can’t be counted. Perfect for fans of Lisa Williamson, Non Pratt and Sarah Crossan.

CONTENT WARNING: Eating Disorders (anorexia, binging, and restriction)

 

Why I picked this book up:

I requested this book because I was curious to see how issues of mental health and pregnancy would be handled, and I was interested in a YA novel set in the UK, as almost everything I’ve read in the YA Contemporary genre has been very American-centric.

 

The bad:

Honestly, there was nothing negative to say about this book, other than the possibility that it my be triggering to ED sufferers due to some details about Hedda’s methods of restriction and obsession with other women’s weight. Other than that, the topic of the main character’s eating disorder was handled well – great details and insight were included regarding Hedda’s recovery and relapse without making this novel a handbook on how to lie about food and lose weight as some others on the topic can tend to be.

 

The good:

Wow. Just wow. At times this book winded me with descriptions of Hedda’s self-hatred, with her two halves battling towards health but also towards her anorexia, which she refers to as ‘Nia’. The way Nia is personified is so chilling, and was a great narrative device in order to convey often inexplicable emotions. There was a moment where I was worried that a love interest would become the ‘cure’ or the main plot, but Gregory allows any romance to become background to Hedda’s personal journey, with her feelings used as a way to demonstrate her self-destructive behaviour rather than something that felt shoe-horned in to make the book sell (which is a trope I feel that a lot of debut authors fall foul of). Hedda was also a great and flawed character, selfish due to her illness, but also deeply passionate, analytical and efficient, with a wicked sarcastic sense of humour. Overall this book was tragic, hopeful, and beautiful, exploring motherhood, mental health, learning to trust others with your problems, and the difficult to break spiral of self-loathing. Hedda is never ‘cured’, but her steps towards self-improvement are inspiring and heart-wrenching.

 

Overall rating: 4.5

 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in return for an honest review. All opinions are my own.