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Thursday, 2 April 2020

The February (and March) Book Review


If you're reading this any time in the near future, you will most likely be in the same position as most other people in the UK right now: locked down and unable to leave the house. Those are definitely a few words I never thought I'd be typing together and it still feels so weird to think that we're living in what could easily the storyline of a movie. It's hard to know what to say in these weird and difficult times so I don't want to talk too much about the Coronavirus right now - I just hope everyone is staying inside, staying safe and hopefully it won't be too long before we can all head down to the pub and have a pint in the sun! 

Anyway, we've all now suddenly got a lot of unexpected time on our hands so I thought now was the perfect time to review some of the books I've been reading over the last few weeks. Until last week, I've been super busy with work and had been working a crazy amount of hours so I haven't had as much time to read as much as I would have liked throughout February but hello spare time! I've bought a lot of books to get me through the next few months and hopefully some of these reviews will be useful to those of you looking for some new reads! 



BEFORE THE COFFEE GETS COLD BY TOSHIKAZU KAWAGUCHI

Translated from Japanese, Before The Coffee Gets Cold is set in Tokyo and it's all about a little cafe in a backstreet that doesn't seem very special...unless you know the secret of it's coffee. This cafe's coffee in fact, allows the drinker to travel through time. However, there are a number of rules that you must follow. Sit in a specific sit, don't move from the seat and return to the present before the coffee gets cold or face awful consequences. The book follows the story of four separate time travellers, returning to the past for very different reasons, whether it's to see their ex-lover one last time or receive a letter from a loved one with Alzheimers. 

I really, really enjoyed this book. I wouldn't say it's my usual genre or style but I devoured it in just a matter of days. It's simply written and easy to read with an easy plot and although the entire story happens inside the coffee shop, it manages to be moving, deep and it's an all round lovely story. It was actually nice to read something so light with such a sweet, cute vibe to it, especially in the current climate where everything can feel quite heavy or stressful. The characters are kind of hard to relate to though as there isn't a lot of depth to them but in the long run, that fits with the style of writing and makes it a quick, positive read. I can't say too much about it really without ruining the entire story but if you want something a bit lighter then go for this but if you like really deep character building and twists, maybe go for something else. 

4 OUT OF 5 STARS 



ALL THE UGLY AND WONDERFUL THINGS BY BRYN GREENWOOD

This book was a one I'd never heard of before I randomly picked it up in a second-hand bookstore in Tenerife when I was exploring the area we were staying in back in January. All The Ugly and Wonderful Things had some fantastic reviews online, was a best-seller in America and sounded exactly like my type of book. A love story that follows Wavy, the young daughter of a meth dealer, this book starts when Wavy is just a child and follows her throughout her life and needless to say, it's a story full of tragedy as well as heart-warming moments. She meets Kellen when she is just a small child when he crashes his motorcycle outside of the farmhouse where she lives with her brother and drug addict/dealer parents and this is where the love story begins. 

Overall, I absolutely adored this book. I couldn't put it down and it's exactly my style of read: gritty, beautiful and a little bit out of the box. The narrative changes from Wavy's to Kellan's to other side characters too so you get a real feel of the story from different perspectives and the character building is incredible. The book is really moving and explores a lot of different taboo topics, including drug addiction, eating disorders and the effects that an abusive childhood can have on children growing up, particularly because most of the book is written from Wavy's perspective. All in all, it's a very emotional book and I can't tell you the crazy different emotions I felt while reading this - there are so many ups and downs so be prepared for a heart-wrenching, gritty story that can feel unpleasant at times. 

However, there is one thing stopping me from giving this book a 5/5 rating and that is because the relationship between Kellan and Wavy is one that made me feel extremely uncomfortable and it definitely needs a bit of a trigger warning. Their sexual relationship begins when she is a minor and he's in his early twenties and despite the fact that Kellan is a good guy and that it doesn't feel abusive, Wavy has led a very very troubled life and is so so vulnerable. There was something about it that just didn't sit right, no matter what. There was always a bit of a niggle in my head that was like "what the fuck is happening" and it all gets a bit weird. For me, it didn't stop it being a good book and I still really loved it but that little niggle was just there for the entire time, so bear this in mind before you start reading as some people may find it upsetting or triggering. 

4 OUT OF 5 STARS 


LIAR BY AYELET GUNDAR-GOSHEN

I would be lying if I said that it wasn't the cover of this book that appealed to me and I know the old saying that I'm not even going to say but look how pretty the aesthetic of the cover of Liar is?! Anyway, this book is set in Israel and follows Nofar, a pretty average 17 year old who doesn't really have a lot going on in her life. That is, until she tells a lie that gets pretty out of control. pretty quickly in a story that focuses on the effects of lies and the butterfly effect of even small choices. 

So, this book is absolutely beautifully written. It's almost like poetry with all of it's metaphors and long, descriptive paragraphs and that's the thing I loved the most about it. It fills the imagination with vivid imagery, transporting you to the exact place that the book is describing. The descriptions of characters are also fantastic, with no character being totally evil or totally perfect - they are all intensely human and relatable. The story itself, is about a lie about a sexual assault and although the book is incredibly well written and is really great to read, I couldn't help but feel uncomfortable at the story. It just felt very inappropriate, particularly in the current climate where women and victims are often accused of lying about sexual assault, no matter what and I just felt it is pushing a rhetoric that really does not need pushing. I understood that the underlying message was to show how far small "in the moment" lies can go and the damage they can do but it just seems to me to be in very bad taste. 

Also, the story didn't really seem to go anywhere. No big twists, no big reveal. The ending just felt kind of flat to me and given the quite dark nature of the book, I was just expecting a little bit more than what it gave. 

So again, this book comes with a trigger warning re: sexual assault and accusations of lying etc. I honestly wouldn't recommend reading for the story as it's really not that great and not that helpful in the current day and age but it is good to read for the style of poetic writing. 

3 OUT OF 5 STARS 


BRAISED PORK BY AN YU

I picked this book up in Waterstones when I had a bit of panic buy because I suddenly realised that I may not be able to leave the house for a while. I found this in the new releases section and I think that this is An Yu's debut novel, only just released at the beginning of the year. Set in Beijing, Braised Pork follows Jia Jia who wakes up one morning to find her husband mysteriously dead in the bath tub, with no clues surrounding his death other than a drawing left by his body; a drawing of a strange fish man. Jia Jia embarks on a journey not only to discover the truth behind her husband's death and the fish man, but also to find herself after being released from an unhealthy marriage. 

Straight up, I did not enjoy this book. I was totally intrigued by the blurb, thinking it was going to be a mystery/crime book with lots of twists and turns. I was left disappointed. Absolutely nothing seemed to happen in this book. There was a distinct lack of character building, random characters coming in and out of the story that contributed virtually nothing and the story just did not seem to go anywhere. There was no climax, no big reveal and ultimately, at the end I was just a bit bewildered because the entire thing was so bland. I can barely think of anything to even say about it because so little happened in the book itself. I don't know if I'm missing some hidden meaning or symbolism of the story so if I am please get in touch and explain it, because I just had no idea what the point of anything in this book was. 10/10 would not recommend as it stands. 

1 OUT OF 5 STARS 

THE QUIET AT THE END OF THE WORLD BY LAUREN JAMES

I don't have a photo of this book as I donated it to my 13 year old sister as soon as I finished reading but I thought I'd include it anyway as it may be a book that appeals to some of you! Lowry and Shen are the youngest people on earth after a mysterious virus made all humans infertile many years ago. The pair live with an old community in the ruins of London and spend their days looking for treasure in the abandoned underground tunnels until they discover a secret which threatens their entire existence. 

Now, I love me a good post-apocalyptic story, whether it's in a film or in a book and that's why this one appealed to me. This is a good book. I love the story, the author is great at describing the setting and the characters and I did feel like I genuinely liked the characters in this story. The twist that the story takes is great and although I felt like the first half of the book was quite slow, the second half is worth the wait. However, this was a bit too "young adult" for me. I don't mind young adult books but there were times where this felt a little bit cheesy for my liking. It didn't ruin it for me and it was a good read but it was an easy one and is suited for young teens (which is why I donated it straight to my 13 year old sister). If you're looking for a fun, original and easy read then this one might be one for you!


3 OUT OF 5 STARS


THE EXORCIST BY WILLIAM PETER BLATTY

I'm assuming everyone has heard of The Exorcist. Only the scariest film ever made, right? Now I haven't seen the movie (shock!!! I know. As a horror fan, this is embarrassing) so I'm unable to compare the two. However I am planning to watch it at the weekend so will report back on my Instagram! Some of you may not know that the film is actually based on a book as it was written in the 70s and quickly gained a reputation as being the scariest novel of all time. The story is about Regan, an 11 year old sweet and innocent girl who suddenly starts to behave strangely after her mother, Chris, finds she's been talking to "Captain Howdy" through a Ouija board. It starts small with taps from the attic, strange smells in Regan's room but this quickly escalates into something totally horrifying.

The Exorcist is iconic and it's easy to see why. I had actually already read this book about 7 years ago but I decided to re-read now I'm a bit older as I can't really remember the story from the first time I read it. This is a landmark book and film in the field of horror and it honestly does not disappoint. It is an excellent novel and is genuinely scary. The atmosphere that the author creates is absolutely chilling and if you read at night, in the dark, it does make you feel actually scared, the same way a horror movie would, something which I think is rare in a book. If you are a horror fan, it is a fantastic read. It is not for the faint-hearted though. Some parts of it are super graphic and the book does not hold back in its descriptions so if you are easily frightened or feel uncomfortable with graphic language and swearing, it most definitely is not for you. 


5 OUT OF 5 STARS

I've got a few more books on my to-read list but send me your recommendations to keep me occupied!

Amy x

Add your comment

  1. I really, really enjoyed this book. I wouldn't say it's my usual genre or style but I devoured it in just a matter of days. It's simply written and easy to read with an easy plot and although the entire story happens inside the coffee shop, it manages to be moving, deep and it's an all round lovely story. Wikipedia Page Creation Agency

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