Sunday, 12 July 2015

Review: Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella

An anxiety disorder disrupts fourteen-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.(via Goodreads)

Because I've been so out of the loop, I had no idea that Sophie Kinsella was releasing her very first young adult novel. So when Finding Audrey arrived at work, I was pleasantly surprised and it wasn't long before I decided to purchase it.

The theme of the book immediately intrigued me. It explores issues regarding fourteen-year-old Audrey's mental health following a major bullying incident at school, and how she progresses in the months following.

I admire Kinsella for taking on such an important subject, and having dealt with anxiety issues throughout my life, I felt that the often misunderstood subject was well respected, and the writing accurate and insightful. I even took down several page numbers for future reference!

But with that being said, I've always had a bit of a love/hate relationship with Kinsella's novels. While I seem to buy every one she releases, I find some of her characters rather annoying. And unfortunately, the characters in Finding Audrey weren't really an exception. Though I could identify with Audrey, I didn't feel as connected to her as I would have liked. Her mother also reminded me of a more typical Kinsella character  high strung and a little bit silly. But as the novel moved on, I warmed up to her.

Altogether, Finding Audrey is a thoughtful and inspiring novel that teens and adults alike can relate to. While it wasn't perfect, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has experienced anxiety or has ever felt like an outsider. I certainly wish this book was around when I was a teenager.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Imagine you're the only boy in a town of men. And you can hear everything they think. And they can hear everything you think. Imagine you don't fit in with their plans... Todd Hewitt is just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man. But his town has been keeping secrets from him. Secrets that are going to force him to run... The new edition of this unflinching novel about fear, flight and the terrifying path of self-discovery features the short story, The New World. Set before the events of The Knife of Never Letting Go, it is the story of Viola's dramatic journey to the New World. (via Goodreads)

You may recall me mentioning The Knife of Never Letting Go, and how I came across it, in my last blog post. It's admittedly the first book that I've read cover to cover for months (though this doesn't include two or three audio books which I've listened to in the meantime).

I'd say that the novel has automatically earned a place on my 'top reads' list, purely because of the way it pulled me in and inspired me to read again. Many books have tried over the months, but this is the only one that could pique my interest and keep it there.

Although, having said that, it wasn't perfect. I found the language, grammar, and spelling a little annoying at first, though I soon got used to it. This is actually an important element to the story, as the protagonist, Todd, narrates the book and everything he tells us can also be heard by the characters around him. It's part of his stream of consciousness, or his 'Noise' as it's called in the book, and reflects the way that he speaks out loud.

The novel's emotional elements are really what drives it forward. At one point, I had tears in my eyes from reading a particularly heartbreaking scene. The characters are also strong and believable, and I found myself identifying with Todd and his ever changing world.

There are two more books after this which I'm thinking about reading at some point in the future, though I didn't find the ending strong enough to have me leaping into the next installment straight away.

Altogether, The Knife of Letting Go is a fast paced and exciting novel. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games trilogy or The Maze Runner series.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, 4 May 2015

Write, write, write and discover...

Since my last post, even more has changed.

Having tried and failed at a couple of jobs which didn't suit me at all (but I tried so I didn't really fail, and that's how I'm choosing to look at it), I finally landed a role working at WHSmith. And when I'm not helping to man the tills, most of my day involves sorting through the books department. That's right, books! I'm about to go into my fourth week there, and though it's been a challenge, I'm really starting to enjoy it. Being around books and feeling productive and connecting with people again has been really helpful in getting my mind back to a place where I can see a clearer picture for myself moving forward.

The past few months haven't been easy on me. It's been hard. The job search seemed long and brutal, and I went to so many interviews before I got to where I am now. It really knocked my confidence. On top of that, I've been trying to come to terms with the absence of someone who made a significant impact on my life at the end of last year. That's probably been the most difficult thing, trying to deal with having my heart broken and trying my best to move on from it.

But it's true when they say that the challenging times really do give you an opportunity to reassess yourself and what you want from your life. I know that I have never felt so motivated and determined to improve myself and to push harder to reach my goals. Before all this, I used to just stop when things got tough, but now I use it all as motivation. As a driving force. I've become addicted to seeing results.

I've continued going to the gym and eating better, and I have lost 22lbs since the start of the year. I look and feel healthier than I have in years, which I am so proud of. WHSmith's book department was not really a goal. Not a direct one, anyway. My goal, at the start of the year, was to get a full-time office job and move out of my parent's house, and try to leave the memory of this person behind me. I tried the office thing but it didn't work out. So I looked elsewhere, fell into WHSmith and, somehow, books reentered my life. The pay isn't wonderful so there'll be no moving out yet, but my hours enable me to spend more time reading, writing, exercising, and growing on a more personal level.

Working there has just been so unexpectedly inspiring. Last week, as I was unloading some crates filled with various paperbacks, I came across a particular book called The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I suppose it was the title that grabbed me, along with the clever cover design (I love the hidden scribbles). And you know what? I feel like it was calling me, because it's the first book I haven't been able to put down in months. Months! I haven't finished it yet, but you can certainly expect a review to pop up here as soon as I have.

So I think it's fair to say that a flame has been lit within me once more. My hunger for books, for reading, and for writing has reappeared. All because of these unexpected twists which my life has taken the last few months. Just like a good story, I suppose. A story I want to write.

Gilmore Girls has been a big presence in my life the past few
months, too. Hopefully the Lorelai's smarts are
rubbing off on me!
This means that I am back, and I have decided to keep this blog going but continue making changes to its content. I'm going to be a lot more open with my posts from now on. There will certainly be a more personal element to them, but I'll also be reviewing and covering other book related topics. As I'm no longer an English Literature student, you might find that my reviews might be a little more disorderly and a little less formal. In other words, I'm going to try to think less about how I write and just let whatever comes out of my head and my heart translate onto the page. I think that's really what it's all about, all this writing. This art. You should never censor your self expression. And from now on, I'm going to try my best to do that. Just let it flow and see where it takes me.

I'm riding the wave. I'll continue getting better, I'll learn to let go, and I'll learn to move forward with what matters and leave the rest behind. To quote the title of a novel written by my favourite Gilmore Girl, Lauren Graham: Someday, someday, maybe.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The process of reinvention

Sunrise in Queensland, Australia. November 2014.
I don't really know where to start. It's been a while. I haven't posted since September, and that's pretty crazy if you consider how prolific I had been prior to that. Well, at least between 2011 and 2013.

2014. Wow. What a year that was for me. Basically, my life turned into something I just did not expect. I got a job which I enjoyed, made a bunch of new friends, had family visiting from all over the world on a couple of occasions, I travelled to Australia for a month, and had more fun than I ever thought I would have. But, in all of this, guess what I forgot to do? I forgot to read.

I know what you're thinking. Sophie, you're a book blogger! How could you possibly forget to read? Well, that's a good question. Perhaps it's not that I forgot, so much as I just didn't make time for it. I even had to defer my university course twice because I hadn't made time to go through the materials.

The thing is, though, I learnt a lot about myself last year and, with everything that went on, I started to change. By the time I arrived home from Australia at the end of November, I'd reached a bunch of crossroads: I lost my job (budget cuts), I lost a few people (various ways), and I seriously began to consider a different university degree.

So in these first couple of months of 2015, I have had to adapt. I'm still looking for work, but I'm not far from finding something (a couple of interviews lined up for this week). I've found ways to cope without having certain people in my life by focusing on losing weight and getting fit (the gym and healthy eating are new addictions). And I've changed my university degree.

That's right, I'm no longer an English Literature student, but a Humanities student.

And that brings me to why I'm here, I suppose. The truth is, I'm just not reading anymore. Not nearly as much as I used to, anyway. And so I'm considering a few options for this blog. Either it will move forward as more of a general lifestyle blog (with some book reviews included every now and again), or I will set up an entirely new blog and start over from scratch  a new beginning to go with the new direction in which my life is headed.

So I hope you all stay tuned a little longer while I figure this out. One thing's for sure, though: you never really know what the universe has in store for you.