Sunday, 10 February 2019

Review of 'Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl' by Tracy Quan

Review of 'Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl' by Tracy Quan

Today is a day for endless cups of tea because wow the need for caffeine is real. But, I'm here and still catching up on 2018 reads, edging closer and closer to finally being able to review things straight after I finish them (the idea at this point seems absolutely unattainable, but it'll happen). 

The life of a call girl in literature is, in my opinion, explored in a way that's both not very thorough and also, probably not very accurate. Call girls tend to be used as a foil to highlight certain aspects of someone else's character (e.g. making us realise a guy is a cheat on his wife), or they turn up as a murder victim. But there aren't many occasions where the main character in a book is a call girl, or at least, I haven't come across it very often.

Diary of a Manhattan Call Girl is written by Tracy Quan, an ex-call girl turned novelist, who uses her experiences to really tackle stereotypes around sex work. The main character of the book, Nancy Chan, is a prostitute who largely has sex with older gentlemen. She's reached a stage in her career where things are a little easier money-wise, but as she's getting older she's starting to face the idea of a future away from sex work. There's one other driving force for this: her fiancee Matt who has no idea what her real job is.

I found it pretty hard to engage with this book, and from the reviews I've read of it, it seems as though a lot of other people feel the same. The language is quite cold and distant, where it would work so well as a book filled with emotion. The stories she tells offer an interesting insight into life as a call girl, but don't delve into her feelings about it. 

A good portion of the book is based around her lying to her fiancee about what she does, and it's not told in a way that's justified: the protagonist knows that what she's doing is wrong, but she's stringing this poor guy along leading a double life. The ending is also very abrupt: we never find out what happens with her deciding whether or not to tell him, and it all just tails off randomly.

I'm giving this three stars because it did offer an interesting insight into life as a call girl, told by someone who knows what she's talking about, but the whole idea of a plot or any kind of narrative flow seems to have been a bit lost along the way.

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube 

Monday, 28 January 2019

Review of 'Spark' by Alice Broadway

Review of 'Spark' by Alice Broadway

A few months ago I plunged into Ink, the first in a soon-to-be trilogy by Alice Broadway. As soon as I finished it, I downloaded Spark to my kindle because THE ENDING. I needed to find out what happened asap.

Sunday, 27 January 2019

Review of 'The One We Fell in Love With' by Paige Toon

Review of 'The One We Fell in Love With' by Paige Toon

I've said it before, but I'll say it again now, chick lit is my guilty pleasure. It was something that I gave up reading entirely when I was studying English at uni because wow the judgement would have been extreme, but as soon as I finished my degree it's all I read for months.

Now it's something that I love to dip in and out of. There's something so comforting about the format of it, where you know things will (99% of the time) end up right in the end, and sometimes I really need that rose-tinted look into the world. 

The One we fell in love with is Angus, the classic boy-next-door who moves in to the house next to three identical 17-year-old triplets. Who are stereotypically beautiful: slim, blonde haired, and green-eyed. What a day for him! 

However, although the triplets may look the same, they're all so very different, and problems really start for their hormone-filled teen years when all three of them fall in love with him. The book starts when Phoebe (the most conventionally attractive of the three, personality-wise) is about to get married to Angus. She saw him first, and that was that. 

The book explores how loving the same person changes the relationships between the sisters, and what happens when the adult sisters find each others' diaries ... 

I really didn't like the whole premise of the book if I'm honest, and I think it feels fairly clear to the reader that the author is churning out a book every year. The idea that three sisters with very different personalities could all fall in love with the same guy just completely turned me off from the book because 1.) would that really ever happen? and 2.) you wouldn't just allow the first one he met to have 'dibs' on him. The whole book is based around this idea that Angus met Phoebe first and ended up with her (when they weren't the best match) and not one of the other two because of that, and I just? Is that really how things happen? Did no one step in to tell him he had the wrong girl?

I will say that the writing was good and the novel got better as it went along, and there were some parts I genuinely enjoyed. It was also a nice quick read, so it's not something I regret reading, and I'll be trying another one of the author's books to see if this just had a bit of a strange premise, as it's what really put me off!

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Monday, 21 January 2019

Review of 'Everything I Never Told You'

Review of 'Everything I Never Told You'

Do you ever read a book that makes you think you'll want to come back to it later in life? I think that's kind of what good literature is about. Everything I Never Told You makes me feel like this. It's something that if I revisited in five years, or ten years, or as a mother, or just after losing someone dear me to, I'd read in a whole new light.

Everything I Never Told You tells the tragic tale of Lydia Lee, a Chinese-American teen living in 1970s Ohio. That is, until she turns up dead in the lake near the house. The police are leaning to ruling it as a suicide, but being an A grade student with a healthy home life and a group of friends around her, Lydia's parents quite can't believe this. 

As the book progresses, the story is told from all five members of the household: Lydia's parents, Marilyn and James, her brother Nate, younger sister and Lydia herself. We begin to see that maybe Lydia's life isn't as perfect as first thought, but no one in the family thinks that she'd end her life. Even Nate, who knows all about their troubled childhood (he lived it after all), the lies she's been telling about having friends, and her hanging out with the troublesome boy living down the road, doesn't believe it. 

The book shines a harsh light on racism, exploring how it can be internalised and passed down from parent to child. It discusses mental health issues in teens, and how they can be concealed even from those closest to you. These topics are SO important, especially as I don't find myself coming across them in adult fiction as much as I do with YA. I'd recommend this to anyone as it's an incredible piece of general adult fiction with strong writing, and an even stronger message. This does come with a trigger warning that there is discussion of suicide.

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Sunday, 20 January 2019

Review of "Apple Tree Yard" by Louise Doughty

Review of "Apple Tree Yard" by Louise Doughty

I went through a tough spate of reading not-so-great books in Autumn, and upsettingly this falls into that bracket. I'd not come across Apple Tree Yard before it was next in line for my book club read, and I had to pick it up. There's a BBC series on it that I'm pretty sure I won't watch, *but* I have heard good things about. 

Apple Tree Yard is a hybrid between a crime fiction novel and general adult fiction. Yvonne Carmichael, our protagonist, has a love-filled but uneventful marriage. Her kids are grown up and she's never quite reached the peaks that she imagines in her career as a scientific researcher. Everything plods along until she meets a stranger, and begins an affair with him. Yvonne doesn't know who he is: she doesn't even know his name, but she suspects that he may be covert for a secret (government agency) reason.

As the novel progresses, Yvonne's life is split in two: her peaceful home life, and the one she's really interested in. When her two worlds collide in a tragic way at a party for scientific researchers, Yvonne's life becomes harder and harder to control. All along, we know that the present Yvonne is on trial in the docks, but the author keeps you guessing right up until the end to show you what for.

This novel comes with a big trigger warning for rape/sexual assault. The scene that contains it is very graphic, and the aftermath of the character deciding whether or not to report the rape can also be triggering. 

The novel started off, and continued, very slowly. I'm not sure if it was a lot shorter originally, and had been padded out as the author made edits, but it really did drag in my opinion. However, all the layers of description and backstory probably made it a pretty good choice for a TV series.

The rape and aftermath were probably the strongest part of the book. It really looked into why someone might not report a rape, what kind of things you might bring into question surrounding it, and how hard it is to recover from sexual assault. Although it would have been less upsetting if the scene had been described less viscerally, it does highlight how horrifying it can be, and strips away the suggestion that it's always a woman's fault.

I really wanted to enjoy this, and there were parts that made it an interesting book. I'll be giving it 3 stars because it was thought-provoking, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Saturday, 19 January 2019

Review of 'Complete Ghost Stories' by Charles Dickens

Review of 'Complete Ghost Stories' by Charles Dickens

I'm a big Dickens fan - there's something about his work that just soothes me. I'm not sure if it's sinking back into another era, or the masses of adjectives, or the fact that once I start one of his books I'm in it for the long haul. Maybe a combination of all of these reasons. Back around Halloween (yep, still super behind on these reviews), I plunged into this to see what Dickens' ghost stories were like, especially A Christmas Carol.

I won't lie, I was left a little disappointed. Although the content was fab because duh Dickens, the way it was put together was less so. I expected to be reading a collection of standalone short stories, but maybe the word 'complete' should have warned me: about two thirds of the collection were extracts from full on novels. Which made for some very confused reading. I think it's hard enough to keep up with the vast numbers of characters he includes in his writing, but then taking little chunks out of the book made it just impossible to keep up with because you were bombarded with them in such a short space of time. It just really didn't work for me.

However, this is something that would be useful if you're looking into Victorian ghost stories and monsters. It's something that I'd personally love to learn more about (I so want to read some penny dreadfuls), but I'd be happy to not have them all crammed into a volume like this. 

The one real saving grace was A Christmas Carol. The Muppet's version is one of my favourite Christmas films, and it was great to see how they'd stayed so close to the book and completely strayed from it in other parts. And the biggest shocker? There's only one Marley! If you don't know the tale of A Christmas Carol, it tells us of a grumpy old man called Ebenezer Scrooge who hates Christmas, until four ghosts visit him in the night determined to change his mind.

I honestly couldn't give this anything above 2 stars, and I just wish I'd read A Christmas Carol as a standalone book!

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

Review of 'The Trial' by Franz Kafka

Review of 'The Trial' by Frank Kafka

Kafka is an author I really struggle with, but I think that's part of the aura of his works (right?). I first came across his work when I had to read The Metamorphosis in my first year at uni. It was nightmarish and pretty horrifying, BUT, has stuck in my mind so well that I can still imagine a cockroach-esque man chilling (fretting) in his bedroom. 

The Trial wasn't any more comforting, or easy to get through. But, it was a true modernist novel, and it was something that I imagine could have been written today, or any other time in history. The fact that it almost sat outside of my own concept of time made it simultaneously excellent and even more confusing.

The Trial commences with Josef K. being arrested on his thirtieth birthday, despite having done nothing wrong. The book then follows his case both in and outside of the courthouse, exploring how the justice system works (or doesn't). As the book goes on and Josef panics more, it gets more convoluted until we are in a nightmarish state of reality, trapped in maze-like buildings and plot lines that trail off into oblivion. The prosecutor for the case is inaccessible both to the reader and Josef, creating an omniscient power that can't be touched.

Although I found it tough to get through, I am glad I read this. I've been making my (slow) way through a number of European classic novels over the past few months, and it's interesting to see how things progressed to a place where Kafka can write something like this. He absolutely nailed writing as though you're in a nightmare: you know the ones where you're in a building you open a door and wow all of a sudden you're walking into a meadow where a living room should have been? Those kind of twisted, vivid dreams are kind of what the book feels most like for me. 

Looking back over the book, one thing that really stands out is that this could describe a modern trial, where the prosecutor has almost become an overpowering and invisible figure through the media. Big trials invade every aspect of the defendant's life, and every single act is scrutinised by hundreds of people before the defendant is anywhere near a court.

If you've read and enjoyed any of Kafka's short stories, or any of James Joyce's works, then I would definitely recommend reading this as a foundational work.

Follow me on Bloglovin | Twitter | Instagram | Youtube