Two Tiny Book Reviews

How to become a writerHow To Become A Writer by Lorrie Moore

Series or Standalone?: Standalone
Genre: Nonfiction, Language/Writing, Short Stories
Publication Date: 2015
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Source & Format: Purchased, Paperback
Check it out on Goodreads!
Rating: ★★★★

‘How To Become a Writer’ is one of the stories in Lorrie Moore’s debut collection Self-Help.

Don’t let the title fool you, this is not the writing guide that you may mistake it for. No, this is one of Lorrie Moore’s short stories, previously published in her debut short-story collection, reissued in an adorable single edition format by Faber to celebrate the launch of Faber Modern Classics. I picked this up on a whim while placing an Amazon order, as it only cost a couple of pounds and the title and premise intrigued me. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting from this tiny 25-page volume, but Moore’s writing was surprisingly hilarious and it proved to be the quick, funny read that I was craving. Amusing in its honesty, the main thread of the plot is that the narrator decides that, if you’re writing you are a writer, regardless of what others think of you, and I found this to be rather reassuring! I’ll definitely be checking out more of Lorrie Moore’s work after reading this, and it was a wonderful place to begin before diving into her other work.

we should all be feministsWe Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Series or Standalone?: Standalone
Genre: Nonfiction, Feminism, Essay
Publication Date: 9th Octover 2014
Publisher: Fourth Estate
Source & Format: Purchased, eBook
Check it out on Goodreads!
Rating: ★★★★

A personal and powerful essay from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of ‘Americanah’ and ‘Half of a Yellow Sun’, based on her 2013 TEDx Talk of the same name.

Now, I’m not going to lie, I’m not very well educated when it comes to feminism. I’ve never really read much about the topic, or followed the debates – in all honestly, I’ve just sort of let the whole thing go over my head a little, and earlier this year I decided that was something that I wanted to change. I want to know more about this extremely important topic that effects women’s lives all over the globe, and while the other literature available on the topic seemed a little intimidating, Adichie’s short introduction based on her TEDx talk of the same name looked like the ideal place to begin. Adichie brings to the table a powerful yet simply written piece on feminism in an extremely accessible way, and, despite it’s length, it certainly has a greater impact than many of the longer novels I’ve read in a long time. The short, sharp and effective essay discusses gender equality, how and why it is a problem today and why it is so important without seeming preachy or patronizing in any way. Beautifully written and presented, Adichie’s words are of great importance and should be read by all, regardless of sex, age or nationality, and it’s message will stick with me for a long time.

A Reminder

Be Kind

Sometimes, when the world seems like a terrible and scary place, the only thing that we can do is to put some good back out there. Be the best that you can be today. Be kind.

Book Review: The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateSeries or Standalone?: Standalone
Genre: Children’s Literature, Middle Grade
Publication Date: 17th January 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source & Format: Purchased, Hardback
Check it out on Goodreads!
Rating: ★★★★★

Ivan is an easygoing gorilla. Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain. He rarely misses his life in the jungle. In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.

Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog. But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.

Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home—and his own art—through new eyes. When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

Katherine Applegate blends humor and poignancy to create Ivan’s unforgettable first-person narration in a story of friendship, art, and hope.

My Thoughts

I’m not quite sure where to begin with this review. It’s always hardest to discuss the books that you love the most, so I’ll try to be as brief as I can, but all you really need to know is that this book completely exceeded my expectations. The One and Only Ivan is a beautiful, honest, heart-breaking novel that is bound to leave a gorilla-shaped imprint on your heart.

This award-winning children’s novel is based on the true story of a young silverback gorilla, taken from his home in Africa when his parents were ruthlessly poached, and then shipped, along with his sister, to a buyer in America. Not being able to cope with the fear and distress, Ivan’s sister passed away on the journey, leaving Ivan feeling abandoned, scared and alone. In The One and Only Ivan, the only things that make Ivan’s day better are Stella, Julia and Bob, the friends he has made at the mall where they are being held. When a baby elephant named Ruby arrives, Ivan watches painfully as he sees her former lively spirit slowly being extinguished. Ivan makes a silent promise to himself, and a friend of his, that he will protect Ruby and get her out of this cramped cage. He wants to give her a chance of freedom, something he can’t remember ever having himself.

“I like colourful tales with black beginnings and stormy middles and cloudless blue-sky endings. But any story will do.”

I fell in love with the kind, gentle Ivan and his wonderful friends. I was spellbound by Katherine’s riveting, enchanting poetic writing style, and the plot, both heart-breaking and heartwarming, had me hooked from the first chapter. The characters were so real and the writing so beautiful, and I adored how Katherine told the story from Ivan’s perspective. Sometimes animal stories that adopt this technique fall a little flat for me, but Katherine managed to capture Ivan’s voice, his hopes and dreams and fears, in a way that felt both realistic and uniquely magical. Ivan as a character is so open and honest about the things he has seen and witnessed, and I loved hearing an animal’s perspective on humanity, particularly on zoos, poaching and conservation. His story is one that is both haunting and inspiring, and really made me think a lot about the way animals are treated in this day and age. 

I’m not quite sure I’d ever be able to write a review that would do this book justice. Katherine Applegate has weaved together a haunting, beautiful story, filled with such vibrant, lovable characters that will forever hold a special place in my heart. The One and Only Ivan is a novel full to the brim with friendship, love, fierce loyalty that both broke my heart and put it back together again. An beautiful and important book to be enjoyed by both young and old, the tale of silverback Ivan shows us that even on the darkest of days, hope can always be found.

“A good zoo,” Stella said, “is a large domain. A wild cage. A safe place to be. It has room to roam and humans who don’t hurt.” She pauses, considering her words. “A good zoo is how humans make amends.”

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20 Books of Summer | A TBR List

Now I know I’ve mentioned before that I don’t typically get along with ‘To Be Read’ lists, and that remains to be true. However, the truth of the matter is, I own too many books, and I need something to motivate me to read them before my flat is completely and utterly taken over by books that I have not yet read. I own a lot of books, and sometimes I forget that excitement that I originally felt while buying them because they are lost to the depths of my (very messy) bookcase, shoved to the back unread. And that’s where the 20 Books of Summer Challenge, hosted by Kathy at 746 Books, comes in.

The idea is that between 1st June and 5th September, you attempt to read 20 pre-selected books from your TBR list. Now, I know that I’m a little late joining in, but I’m going to give it a go anyway! I have a fairly busy few months coming up, full of dissertation work and job hunting, but hopefully taking part in the challenge will inspire me to pick up some of the titles that I’m excited for but have been neglecting lately. Due to my difficulty sticking to TBR lists I am going to be reading other books alongside the 20 that I have picked out, just to keep things interesting, but the following titles are definitely my priority during the the coming months:

20 Books of Summer 1-5

The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave | The Reader on the 6.27 by Jean-Paul Didierlaurent | The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George | The Improbability of Love by Hannah Rothschild | In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume 

20 Books of Summer 6-10

The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon | A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler | A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson | Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper | Wild Lily by K.M. Peyton

20 Books of Summer 10-15

Love Notes for Freddie by Eva Rice | The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie | The Amber Shadows by Lucy Ribchester | The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins | The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

20 Books of Summer 16-20

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald | Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee | Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder | A Very Special Year by Thomas Montasser | Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir 

I think I’ve picked out a pretty good mix of genres, and I’m really looking forward to getting around to all of these, hopefully in the not-too-distant future!

Are you taking part in the challenge? Have you read any of the books I have chosen? 

What I Read In… May | Wrap Up

First and foremost, I apologise that this post is a little late. We’re well into June now (what a scary thought!) and this month’s reading is well under way, but it certainly is about time that I gave a little attention to the books that I enjoyed in May. There were certainly fewer than in April’s wrap up, which, if I’m being honest is somewhat of a relief, as that post was way too long! Despite the fact that I didn’t read as much as I was hoping to in May, due to the usual reasons of university work, dissertation stress and all of the other things that go along with being a Masters student, I very much enjoyed the majority of the books that I did get to. It was another month of easy reads, because my brain was way too overworked to get stuck into something that required too much effort or concentration, with genres ranging from cosy mysteries to children’s to Young Adult. A good month by not a great one, but full of fun and enjoyable books all the same.

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# OF BOOKS READ: 15
TOTAL # OF PAGES READ: 4,006

Real Murders by Charlaine Harris | ★★★★
This was my very first venture into the writing of popular author Charlaine Harris, perhaps best known for her paranormal Sookie Stackhouse series. I was sucked in by the premise of this first instalment in the Aurora Teagarden series, and I was pleasantly surprised, devouring Real Murders in less than 24 hours. Fun, fast-paced and packed with just the right amount of detail, this was a thrilling introduction to the world of simple librarian Roe and her quirky interest in murder. I also enjoyed how the focus of the book, a series of murders taking place in Roe’s town, were based on real-life murders, and hearing a little about them made for an interesting take on what otherwise may have been a simple or slightly generic murder mystery.

A Bone to Pick by Charlaine Harris | ★★★
Having enjoyed the first instalment so much I was eager to continue on with this mystery series, and dived straight into A Bone to Pick. The story picks up an unspecified amount of time after the (rather dramatic) events of Real Murders, and our protagonist Roe has just inherited a house – and a skull. The mystery of this one was just a little less gripping than the first, as it lacked the sense of immediate danger and the thrill that goes along with it that was so very present and real within the first novel. However I did still enjoy the plot, and even without the drama reading about Roe’s life and her attempts at detection were highly entertaining. I will, of course, be continuing on with the rest of the books in the Aurora Teagarden mysteries.

The Princess Diaries: Give Me Five by Meg Cabot | ★★★★
Picking up a few months after the previous book, Give Me Five feels a little more grown up than the earlier books in the series. Mia is about to turn 15, and of course, the main things on her mind are her birthday party and whether or not Michael will take her to prom. Now, I’m not going to lie, Mia was pretty insufferable throughout – she’s extremely melodramatic and I was a little frustrated at her at times, but Michael more than made up for that! This instalment also contained one of the funniest scenes that I’ve read in a long time, even the thought of it nearly a month on still makes me giggle! (You can find a sneak peak here.)

The Princess Diaries: Sixsational by Meg Cabot | ★★★
This is the first book in the series where Mia’s boyfriend Michael is away at college, which naturally brings with it it’s own set of problem’s to Mia’s already complicated life. I did find Mia to be, yet again, rather melodramatic and irritating, but I did feel that the topic of teenage sex was dealt with in a particularly sensible and mature way. While it certainly wasn’t my favourite of the series, I still found it quick and fun, and it earns bonus points for making a few references to The Princess Diaries movies, which I really enjoyed!

The Princess Diaries: Seventh Heaven by Meg Cabot | ★★★
Again, this wasn’t my favourite of The Princess Diaries books that I have read thus far, but it was another fun read. I realise that these are fluffy reads, but I had hoped that by now Mia would have matured and grown up a little. This isn’t the case, and consequently this instalment feels a little superficial, however I did enjoy the addition of our newest character. Michael was, of course, brilliant, and I feel that he deserves a bit more recognition for putting up with Mia and her stupidity throughout Seventh Heaven! 

The Princess Diaries: After Eight by Meg Cabot | ★★★
I’m not going to lie, Mia’s behaviour in this one made me want to throw the book across the room on numerous occasions! After Eight is much more focused on Mia and Michael’s relationship than any of the previous books in the series have been, and not everything goes to plan. Yes, Mia was incredibly immature, but I appreciated how Meg Cabot shows that immaturity has consequences that you then have to live with. I found this aspect of the book to be particularly refreshing, however Mia is at her worst in this instalment – you have been warned!

The Princess Diaries: To The Nines by Meg Cabot |★★★★
In contrast to the previous novel, To The Nines is a strong book in the series. Mia really starts to grow up here and starts taking responsibility for her actions in a way that don’t completely centre around herself. As a result, Mia is much more relatable than she has been in the previous books, despite the heavy emphasis that is placed on her ‘Princess Duties’. I also adored Mia’s friendship with Tina, and it made a nice change to have the focus placed on friendship and family relationships as opposed to boyfriends.

The Princess Diaries: Ten Out Of Ten by Meg Cabot |★★★★★
As annoying as Mia has been throughout a number of the books in the series, they were completely worth reading if only for this conclusion. Mia’s time at high school is drawing to a close, and as this final book takes place a couple of years after the previous it’s evident that Mia has done a lot of growing up. The characters and their relationships have evolved and grown so much, and once again there were some great friendship moments in addition to the romance. I also loved how we were given a few sneak peek’s at Mia’s novel, which was so fun! One of the strongest books in the series, and undoubtedly my favourite.

The Princess Diaries: Royal Wedding by Meg Cabot | ★★★★★
Oh, this was completely and utterly, 100% worth the wait. Now 26, Mia has come a long way from the immature high school student she was in her teens, and she has proven to be a wonderful princess of Genovia, yet her life is just as crazy as it was in the original books. This was by far my favourite read of the month; it was such fun to catch up with Mia, Michael, Tina and co. again and find out what they’ve been up to since Ten Out of Ten. I love how not only is Meg Cabot able to get into the heart and soul of protagonist Mia, but also creating a cast of extremely lovable and well developed secondary characters.  Royal Wedding was just as hilarious, perhaps even more so, than the other books in the series, and kept me smiling throughout. I hope that Cabot will return to Mia and Michael in the future, as something tells me their story isn’t over quite yet.

Rosie Goes to War by Alison Knight | ★★★★
I picked up this Young Adult historical fiction new release while browsing the airport bookshop before my flight last month, and thought that the premise was so intriguing I just had to buy myself a copy. Rosie Goes to War follows 15 year old Rosie as she accidentally finds herself being transported back to war-torn London. With no idea of how she got there or how she can get back, she is soon caught up in a whirl of rationing, factory work, and dances, but comes crashing back to reality when she realises that if she can’t find her way home, she may never be born at all. This was such a quick, fast read, rich in historical detail and I adored the added plot line of Rosie making friends with her grandparents in the past and the added hints they dropped about Rosie’s time travelling adventures. While it hasn’t been confirmed, the book suggests that there is more to come from Rosie, and if that’s the case I will definitely be continuing on with the series in the future.

The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge | ★★★★★
You can read my full review here.

Dreaming the Bear by Mimi Thebo |★★★★★
This is perhaps one of the most beautiful books I have read in a long time, both inside and out. Dreaming the Bear follows protagonist Darcy as she struggles to come to terms with her chronic illness, brought on by the change in altitude between her new home in the Yellowstone National Park and the town she grew up in, and her relationship with the injured bear that she accidentally stumbles upon one day. Darcy’s world is painted with lyrical and realistic detail, seamlessly blending in some supernatural/psychological ‘dreams’, and the writing was stunning throughout. I loved the relationship between Darcy and her bear, which moved me to tears on a number of occasions, and the relationship that Darcy developed with the surrounding forest. A unique and powerful animal tale, I adored this, and it’s definitely a book that I will be returning to in the future.

Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell | ★★★★
Rooftoppers is one of those rare, special children’s books that feels like a classic within the genre, regardless of its publication date. This whimsical historical tale has something timeless and wonderful about it – like all the best children’s classics. The characters all well developed and unique, the writing is beautiful and the plot leaves you longing to pack up your things and head off in search of adventure. A brilliant summery type of read with some of the most loveable secondary characters I have come across, Rundell’s work is extraordinary.

The Imaginary by A. F. Harrold & Emily Gravett | ★★★★
Continuing on with the theme of fantastic children’s books, here’s another that I absolutely loved. It’s no often that you come across a children’s book that is both mesmerising and utterly enchanting for children and adults alike, and The Imaginary is most certainly one. The book follows Amanda and her imaginary friend Rudger as they fight to escape the terrifying Mr Bunting, who hunts imaginary friends and, if the stories are to be believed, inhales them to extend his own life, and reminded me a lot of Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. Terrifying, magical and full of beautiful illustrations, this is a wonderful story about the power of creativity, friendship and believing in the impossible.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate |★★★★★
I don’t really want to say too much about this one here, as it was just so incredible I really feel that it deserves its own full review. This breathtaking animal tale is one of my favourite books of the year, and I really think that everyone, regardless of age, would benefit from reading The One and Only Ivan. 

What did you read in May? Have you read any of the books mentioned above?