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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid. - Jane Austen

Jay Asher – 13 Reasons Why

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Urgh.

Can I start a book review with ‘urgh’? I guess I just did.

I’ve been waiting to read this book ever since I saw the Netflix show announced, and I am utterly disappointed. But also a little relieved that I won’t be wasting my time watching 13 hours of TV.

I don’t really know what I expected from the book, it was such an unusual concept – audiotapes left by a girl (Hannah) who committed suicide, detailing the 13 reasons why she did it. But I couldn’t feel any emotional connection to Hannah in the slightest, she seemed a bit whiny to me if I’m honest.

And without an emotional connection, it was all just a bit ‘flat’. I just felt no impetus to keep reading, other than because the book would count as one towards my reading challenge, on which I’m falling behind.

I don’t want to give away any spoilers in case anyone reading is thinking of reading this book, but I just found it all a bit disappointing, I wanted to ‘feel something’ as I was reading, but I just felt nothing.

Maybe I’m the wrong age for this book, and it would be more popular with teenage readers, I know that the Netflix show was definitely popular with the teenage schoolgirls who get on my bus on a morning, judging by how many times I had to turn my music up to avoid spoilers!

So not for me, but maybe that’s just me.

Nicola Yoon – Everything Everything

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This book was SUPERB!

I sat down to read this book yesterday afternoon and didn’t get back up again until I’d finished it. It was that good. I just couldn’t stop turning the pages even for a second.

At the start of the book, we meet Madeleine. She hasn’t left her house for as long as she can remember – she has a disease that means she’s allergic to the world. But she’s 18, and she’s lonely. So when a new family moves in next door and she strikes up a friendship with the son Olly, it looks like she’s willing to risk her life just for some normality.

I’m finding it really hard to review this book without wanting to write major spoilers, as I could just gush about this book forever. What I will say is that the ending was definitely not what I expected in the slightest – I had just assumed it was going to be a super-sad book, but I was really surprised by the ending – and in a good way.

This book is coming out as a film later this year, and I can’t wait to watch it. If it’s even half as good as the book, it’s going to be fantastic!

Kate Eberlen – Miss You

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If you love romantic books with a bit of a twist, this book is definitely for you.

At times, it felt a bit familiar to other books in the same vein, for example One Day by David Nichols, but the author did a great job of making it unique enough to keep it interesting. It says something that I read this entire book in one day, as I’ve been really struggling to get through any books recently.

Tess and Gus first ‘meet’ in Italy where they are both on holiday before going away to University, and so starts a string of almost-meetings that will span the next two decades. They are tantalisingly close to many times but just never manage to quite meet.

As we follow their lives through the book, it’s clear that neither of them is living the life they always dreamed off, especially poor Tess whose dreams of going to university after that holiday to Italy are dashed when her mother dies, leaving her as a carer for her younger sister Hope.

And whereas Tess’ bad luck seems to be mainly not her fault, Gus seems to head from one bad decision to the next, floating through life still traumatised by the death of his older brother Ross, and the fact that he just can’t live up to his big bro in his parents’ eyes.

I was completely transfixed by the whole story, I just had to keep turning the pages, desperate to know that the two would finally meet and fall in love. And while you’ll be happy (and unsurprised) to know that of course that is what happens in the end, I was just a little disappointed that we didn’t hear more about what happens after – maybe a sequel though?

Gene Kim, Kevin Behr & George Spafford – The Phoenix Project

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So I hadn’t really thought about adding ‘tech-books’ on Goodreads or on here, but I realised that I’m letting myself miss out on books towards my reading target of 52 books this year, so why not!

I actually read this one in July after being lent it by my colleagues in the London office when I was visiting. I was told that everyone else in the office had read it and that I should read it too, so I cracked it open on the train on the way home.

By the time I got off the train in Leeds 2 hours later, I was three quarters of the way through this book and feeling a little gutted that my train journey wasn’t longer so I could finish the whole thing!

Although this book contains so many practical tips about devops and how to run a team, it’s written as a novel so it’s really easy to read and not quite as dry as some tech books that I’ve read before. From the first page, I was sucked into Bill’s world completely, feeling each failure and setback with him.

There were so many places throughout the book where I found myself identifying with many of the characters and shaking my head because I could see that the behaviours were terrible – clearly I didn’t see that at the time!

What made me happy though was realizing that most of the terrible behaviours I identified with were from when I was at my previous company, and so many of the good things that Bill implements in this book are things that our team is now doing in my new company – and this made me smile!

I’d love to read more books like this, so if you have any recommendations let me know in the comments!

Bella Forrest – The Gender Secret

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I was in two minds about the first book in this series, it had good moments and bad moments, but the shock ending left me wanting to read more.

Unfortunately, I’m a bit disappointed that I did. As expected Viggo and Violet are reunited again, but then we spend the whole book going back and forth between ‘I trust him’ and ‘wait, no I don’t’. And it started to get on my nerves just a little bit.

But once we’d got out of ‘the green’, I did find myself on the edge of my seat waiting to see what was going to happen next, even if sometimes it felt like it was going slower than I thought. I didn’t particularly like the inclusion of Viggo’s chapters where we see things from his point of view, I felt like they weren’t quite as well written as Violet’s chapters and he seemed like a different personality to the Viggo of the first book to be honest.

I did think the ending of the book kind of redeemed the faults from the rest of the story, so I will probably try the 3rd book in the series when I can get it for free on my kindle, but I won’t be in a particular rush to get to it really.

Kathy Cooperman – Crimes Against a Book Club

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So apparently as an Amazon Prime member, you get a chance once a month to get a newly released book for free, and this was my choice for this month. I don’t read many crime books, but I was drawn in by the ‘book club’ in the title.

As it turns out, the book club was a very small part of the actual plot, and while I don’t usually ready crime books, this was a typical crime book as they usually focus on the people solving the crime, not the ones actually doing it.

I was drawn immediately to the main characters Sarah and Annie. Sarah, a drop dead gorgeous lawyer who is working herself into the ground, may look like she has a perfect life, but she can’t have children and it’s killing her. And Annie, who has a beautiful family at home and a loving husband, is going through problems too. Her son Oscar has been diagnosed as being on the autistic spectrum, which is going to need a lot of expensive treatments and therapies.

So when Sarah and Annie come up with a quick way to make some money, it seems like life will be rosy for them. But Sarah, as the glamorous face of the business, doesn’t know the secret ingredient that Chemist Annie has added to the $2000 per jar face cream that they’re going to peddle to the wealthy members of La Jolla, starting with the book club.

Whatever the secret ingredient is, it’s having a dramatic effect on the lives of those people who start to use it, as we see through Sarah’s interactions with these people. But when Annie runs out of the secret ingredient, it looks like it’s all going to come crashing down, and she can’t exactly ask Sarah for help.

I found the book such an original idea and I loved both Sarah and Annie, two very different women going through their own struggles in the best way they can. I also liked the other cast of rich characters we are introduced to (although I think there could have been less of them), proving that money doesn’t give you happiness.

I would have liked more of a personal connection with Sarah and Annie and their families, in order to feel truly invested in their business, but when it all starts unravelling, I just didn’t feel like I was going through it with them. I also thought that after all the build up, the ending felt a little rushed.

I think this was a good choice from the list that Amazon was offering though, and I’d definitely recommend it, despite the little things I didn’t enjoy.

Bella Forrest – The Gender Game

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I thought the concept of this book was a very intriguing one. Two societies separated by a river: one ruled by women, one ruled by men. To be a man in Matrus is to have no rights or responsibilities, and to be a woman in Patrus is possibly worse. You are the property of your husband and cannot go anywhere without him. If he beats you and no-one else sees it, your word is not enough to prosecute him.

Our story begins with Violet trying to smuggle her younger brother from Matrus to Patrus, as he has not passed the test that all Matrus-born males have to undergo to prove that they aren’t too masculine to fit into society. But things go wrong and Violet is caught, and we next catch up with her during her imprisonment for that crime. But Violet is not good at abiding by rules, and she soon finds herself sentenced to death for killing a fellow prisoner.

But maybe that’s not the end for Violet. She’s offered the chance of a lifetime (literally). All she has to do is cross over to Patrus undercover, marry a man she’s never met and take part in a top secret plot. And here lies my first problem with this book. Why give such a seemingly important task to an orphan prisoner who has shown she has a violent and unpredictable personality?!

Nevertheless, of course Violet agrees to this task (it’s either that or the death penalty), and we see Violet plunged into more danger than she’s ever faced.

We then end up in a fairly stereotypical love triangle between Violet, her new husband (who seems nice but boring), and Viggo, the handsome enigmatic fighter that Violet is supposed to be tailing so they can frame him for the crime they are about to commit. But of course Violet falls in love with Viggo and the whole mission is in danger.

I really wanted to love this book as I thought the idea was such a good one, challenging the stereotypical notions of male and female characters and putting them out on display like that, but there was just too much predictability about it, and I would have preferred it without such an obvious love triangle. When you’re trying to expose gender imbalance like that, I think the story would have been just as good without the doey-eyed young girl part.

I did, however, enjoy the shock ending. I won’t go into too much detail, but it did redeem the book enough for me to want to read the next book in the series to see where it goes.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy, Volume 1: Cosmic Avengers

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I wasn’t sure if I could include this on my 2017 reading challenge, but it appears on Goodreads, so I’m going to say yes. It was my first ever comic book (at the grand old age of 27), and I had a lot of fun reading it.

I just saw it on my kindle available for free, so I thought I’d give it a try, and since I’ve seen the Guardians of the Galaxy films, I thought it would be a good place to start as I would know kind of what would happen.

The quality of the drawing was superb, I felt so absorbed in the story. My only sad point was that Groot in the comic books was definitely not as cute as Groot in the films!

I definitely would read more comic books in the future, but I think I’d rather read them as a physical book rather than on Kindle, as I think it lost a little bit of something when swiping through the pages on screen.

Ken Costa – Know Your Why

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I don’t really know how to go about reviewing this book. As I was reading, I started making a list of my favourite quotes so that I could use them in my review, but I quickly realised that I was writing down a significant portion of the book, so I had to give that up.

Each chapter focuses on different areas of your calling, for example focus, and patience and courage etc, and everything that Ken says is backed up with biblical facts. He also uses his significant business experience to back up the things he says. The book is mostly focused on how to find your calling within the world of work, especially when your field of work is not something that you would usually consider to be ‘God-centered’. Ken himself was an investment banker so he knows all about this.

The book was just filled with such fantastic knowledge and insight, that I would recommend it to everyone considering what their calling is within the Church. I picked this book as I’ve been doing a leadership course at Church and I thought it would help with my focus, and it was such a good decision. Highly highly recommended.

Milly Johnson – The Queen of Wishful Thinking

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Oh Milly Johnson, how I love you. I went to get this book signed at Waterstones in Leeds, and Milly was as lovely as always, a proper Yorkshire lass! The young ladies in front of me were very clear that they were getting the book for their mums, I was like ‘Nope, this is all for me!!!’.

As always, the thing I loved most about this book was the relate-able characters who I fell in love with immediately, especially Bonnie. You can tell she’s been worn down by a loveless (to say the least) marriage, but she’s such a kind lady and deserves much better, just like her new boss Lewis. And I also loved that this book was set in the same area as The Teashop on the Corner, a lovely touch that made everything feel very familiar.

As with other books like this, it’s pretty obvious where the plot is heading, but Milly did a great job of keeping me hooked to the very end. The drama between Bonnie and Stephen is brilliantly written, as is the unfolding of events between Lewis and Charlotte and their group of friends. I won’t say too much to give away any spoilers!

This book is honestly Milly at her finest, I was just sad the book was over so soon!!