Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Review: This Is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith

Blurb: It's June- seventeen-year-old Ellie O'Neill's least favorite time of year. Her tiny hometown is annually invaded by tourists, and this year there's the added inconvenience of a film crew. Even the arrival of Hollywood heart-throb Graham Larkin can't lift her mood. But there is something making Ellie very happy. Ever since an email was accidentally sent to her a few months ago, she's been corresponding with a mysterious stranger, the two of them sharing their hopes and fears. Their developing relationship is not without its secrets though- there's the truth about Ellie's past... and her pen pal's real identity. When they finally meet in person, things are destined to get much more complicated. Can two people, worlds apart but brought together by chance, make it against all the odds?

My thoughts: I read The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight a while ago, and I loved it. Not as much as The Sky is Everywhere or Anna and the French Kiss, but it was good. So when I saw this I bought it. The front cover is so awesome, and I love the title, so that was a plus.
The actual book- you know, the written words and stuff- I liked too. The prologue of emails showing how they first "met" was funny and drew you in before the story even started. I also approved of the setting- there should be more books set in small, seaside towns. The little quirky details like the framed poems and heart-shaped pancakes added a sort of rounded completeness to Ellie's life in Henley; everyone needs things like odd shaped breakfasts and their favorite poems in their world.
I thought there should have been more focus on Ellie and what she wanted, like the poetry course, or that she doesn't even like lobster (shock horror!).
The story was okay, but it was the characters and the setting that made this book good. The plot didn't really seem to go anywhere; they wasted a ton of time, then it gets all dramatic, then it just kind of trails off into uncertainty. I didn't really like the ending- for me, endings should be dramatic kisses and to-the-death duels and riding off into the sunset. This was just a whole lot of waiting around and unresolved everything. It's very uncertain, and though there's hints about whats going to happen, Smith doesn't actually say, and I find that almost as annoying as the cliff-hangers in every single Cat Clarke book I've read. It's almost like the author just got to a point where they couldn't be bothered to finish the story, so just cut it off a few pages before it was supposed to end.
So, after saying all that bad stuff about this book, I'm going to say that actually, you should read it. Despite not being as good as it could have been, I didn't feel disappointed or let down by Jennifer E Smith, and it was one of those books that kept me engrossed all the way through, because of some random book-y magic. And if that isn't enough, it does look very pretty on my shelf.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler

This book makes me want to notice things more. It makes me want to follow old movie stars home from the cinema, hide beneath the branches of a weeping willow, go to crazy shops at seven in the morning, drink obscene amounts of coffee. Reading this book, I want to see things the same way Min does, sitting on her roof at night, lit matches falling to the ground below.
Daniel Handler takes something so cliched, so commonplace- the teenage romance, the bad boyfriend, and he makes it new and exciting, in a different light like one of Min's movies. I don't think I've ever covered a book in so much highlighter as I did to Why We Broke Up. I want to remember every bit of prose, every reminisce and thought and feeling like stars, and yes, Augustus Waters, these stars form constellations, and they are beautiful.
When I reread this book, the pattern of Min's mind gets stuck in my head, and for a few days I think a bit like her, see things how maybe she would. Always, I want it to stick, but every time I forget, and go back to thinking my way, and the world is just a little less interesting.
And I love books like that, that make you want to climb inside them, or stuff them into your head so you never forget a single line, ever. But I do forget, and then I come back and read it again, just so I can remember those certain stars, so I can draw Min's constellations until next time I forget.
This book makes me want to write like Min when I review it, so what if its not a proper review, I get to write what maybe Min would write, and then I can remember, next time I see this. Like in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, that quote I forgot, Milan Kundera understanding, making me understand that we must never, ever forget, because to forget is to lose the past, and that is inexcusable.
So read it. Read this book because it deserves to be read, and remembered. Treasured. It deserves to be loved by people other than me, already self-conscious, should I have written it differently, should I have said something else? And next time, when I'm back to how I normally think, normally write, I can look at this and wish it would stick in my head. But there are other books to be read and other things to do, and I can't spend my whole life in those pages, waiting to become like Min. So instead, I want others to read it, and bring Min to life while I'm bringing some other book to life in my head.