Tag Archives: Book Blogger

Book Review | Techbitch


When Imogen Tate returns to her job as Editor in Chief of Glossy magazine after a leave of absence she is bemused to find herself confronted by her former assistant, Eve Morton. Bemusement soon turns to concern when she discovers that Eve has the backing of the head honchos to turn Imogen’s beloved magazine into an app. Print is dead, long live the internet. The trouble for Imogen is that she is not completely up to date on the whole internet thing (asking assistant’s to print out her emails – what?) so she faces an uphill battle to remain relevant as Editor in Chief of this new look magazine. Coupled with this, Eve is not exactly supportive. The sweet assistant is nowhere to be found and in her place is a business school graduate from a new generation of success hungry entrepreneurs, power-mad, egotistical, and, to be frank, a total tech-bitch.

Techbitch takes the familiar formula of The Devil Wears Prada and flips it on it’s head. Unlike Miranda Priestly *cough – Anna Wintour – cough*, Imogen Tate has got ahead in the industry by being nice. She is well-connected and well-liked. The reader has immediate sympathy for her character – she is returning from work after a period of illness and is faced, unfairly one might say, with dealing with huge decisions made in her absence. And, instead of feeling sorry for herself she just gets on with it.  Eve on the other hand, is very much the baddie. She is jealous, spiteful and mean to her staff. In fact, not mean, cruel.

Some of the situations in Techbitch initially seem quite humorous, until you realise that this is actually happening to people. The forced ‘bonding’ group activities, the working all hours, the sacking of people with no reason and no notice is something that seems to be on the rise in many industries. With the current employment climate still being a bit fraught, people are more willing to accept the unacceptable. For me, Techbitch was particularly nightmare-ish in describing the situation for young writers. Under Eve, Glossy employs an ever rotating roster of bloggers, all of whom are expected to work 24/7, anything less and they are out. This lack of work-life balance is a real problem for many who see no alternative if they want to stay employed.

Overall, Techbitch was an enjoyable read. I liked the main characters, even appreciating the at times, caricature villainry of Eve and it was well paced, if a little predictable. It’s an updated The Devil Wears Prada for the Instagram generation and well worth adding to your summer reading list.

Book Review | I Let You Go

Book Review I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is very typical of the kind of book I’ve been reading a lot recently – a fairly classic psychological thriller – but this one brings it’s A-game, making it a must read if you are a fan of the genre.

It’s hard to sum up without spoilers, so I’m just going to let the blurb do it for me:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…

The book is split between two points of view – Jenna’s, a traumatised and grieving mother, and DI Ray Stevens, the lead investigator on the tragic hit and run that we see happening in the opening chapter. I really enjoyed this split perspective – you saw Jenna’s emotional journey trying to recover, while through Ray, simultaneously seeing the intricacies of disentangling the case. The author spent 12 years on the police force so this side of the book has an element of authenticity which is often lacking in these kinds of stories. Yes, there is a bit of a clichéd female rookie cop/male senior going on, but it’s not terrible.

If you pick up this book, you’ll see praise on the cover for the “big twist”. If you can resist trying to guess it, it is pretty good. It comes around half way through the narrative and prompts the plot to pick up pace massively. I really liked the twist and how it was handled. Despite what the cover suggests, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the novel – it still holds it’s own after the big reveal and  keeps you hooked until the end.

Overall, I highly recommend I Let You Go if you enjoy thrillers, domestic dramas and crime books – it ticks all three boxes.

Book Review | The Miniaturist

Book review The Miniaturist by Jessie BurtonThe Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

Nella Brandt arrives in Amsterdam  to her new husband’s house on a cold winters day in 1686. To her dismay, she receives an equally frosty welcome from her sister-in-law Marin, with Johannes, her wealthy merchant groom, nowhere to be seen. Nella struggles to become the “woman of the house” against Marin’s judgemental character and the servant’s apparent defiance. Johannes does not join his wife at night and when he arrives with a cabinet house for Nella to ‘practice’ with, she feels further slighted.

However, she engages the services of a miniaturist who proves to be more than a regular artisan. Nella starts to receive unsolicited items which ring eerily true. As the Brandt household starts to crumble underneath deeply held secrets, Nella desperately attempts to read into the miniaturist’s messages. Can she unravel the mysteries held within the cabinet house in order to save her real house in time?

In The Miniaturist, Burton creates a deeply vivid portrayal of 17th Century Amsterdam. Oppressed and controlled by Calvinist Burgomasters while swimming in imperial wealth, the city is a hotpot of suspicion, gossip and scandal. Johannes represents the very pinnacle of this – an outwardly respectable, successful trader with a young doting wife, but a risk-taker who stands on the precipice of disaster.

 Although the setting was 1686, Nella, Johannes and Marin seem transported from the modern times, each with their individual search for freedom. This worked for me, but someone looking for a historical fiction way feel it lacking for accuracy. However, I really enjoyed The Miniaturist. I found it to be well paced with an intriguing plot and couldn’t wait to get to the bottom of the enigma of Marin Brandt in particular.

Book Review | Them: Adventures with Extremists

Them by Jon RonsonThem: Adventures with Extremists by Jon Ronson

First published in 2001 Jon Ronson’s Them is a pre-9/11 snapshot of extremism across the globe. Ronson spent time with various extremist sects from the KKK to Islamic fundamentalists. Bizarrely, Ronson find that they all have something in common – the belief that the world is ruled by a single elite group who meet in secret, sinister gatherings. And even more bizarrely, Ronson thinks they might be on to something…

Jon Ronson is the original Louis Theroux and the theme of Them suits this faux-naif style of documentary perfectly. You can’t help to find the ridiculous humour in encounters with, for example, David Icke, the UFO conspiracy theorist who genuinely believes that a race of alien lizards run the world. Like, actual lizards. However, Them is raised above simple satire by Ronson’s willingness to put himself in the middle of the action. The scenes where he stakes out a hotel where the Bilderberg group are allegedly meeting are hilarious. He soaks up the paranoia of his (temporary) comrades and finds himself truly seeing things from their point of view.

Them is a really well paced, varied and funny book. It does read slightly outdated and I missed a few of the references but something about the passage of time allows the black humour to shine more. In a scary world, sometimes it good to laugh at those scary people.

Book Review | This One Is Mine by Maria Semple

Book Review Marie Semple This One Is MineThis One is Mine by Maria Semple

Violet Parry is bored. Bored, depressed and on the verge of of doing something reckless. Once a well-known TV writer, she gave up her job to become a stay-at-home mother to baby Dot and wife to hot-shot music exec David. However, she feels isolated by David’s busy career and apparent indifference to her, she feels unable to cope with Dot and leaves her with their nanny as often as possible and she has given up on the home improvements she imagined making. Instead, she drives listlessly around LA, constantly on the brink of tears, impulse buying designer hats and artisan chocolates. Then she meets Teddy Reyes. A down-and-out “musician”/drug addict who has an irresistible appeal to her. The sudden jolt of excitement throws her into a tailspin, desperately chasing an affair with Teddy, risking her marriage and her comfortable life.

Meanwhile, David’s sister Sally is chasing her own dream. As a diabetic she had to give up her ambition of dancing for a professional ballet company and relies on David to pay her doctors bills. Drifting along as a ballet coach to little girls, she sees her only way out of debt, and dependence on David, is to find a rich husband. And fast. So when she is introduced to up-and-coming sports reporter Jeremy White, the dollar signs flash in her eye and she immediately hits fast forward on their relationship, turning a blind eye to the fast emerging flaws.

I picked up this book because I loved Semple’s second book, Where’d You Go, Bernadette?  so I was sure her debut novel would have the same mix of sassy humour and warmth. However, This One is Mine falls far short of it’s successor. The key plot points are ridiculous and full of holes so the story falls flat on it’s face before it even starts. For example, Jeremy clearly has Aspergers Syndrome, it’s blatantly obvious to the reader, and indeed all the other character in the book except Sally. She doesn’t find out until after their wedding and then feels betrayed by the fact that no one told her. Er….OK.

Even worse is the fact that all of the characters are repellent. Perhaps this is done on purpose, as a side-eyes look at the privileged lives of the LA media types. However, it really doesn’t come across this way. The casually racist way David and Violet refer to their nanny, the selfish, single-minded personality of Sally, Teddy Reyes. Teddy is another major sticking point for me. He is just gross. It is simply unbelievable that Violet would be attracted to him – she even says herself at several points that he is unclean with bad teeth, filthy fingernails and greasy hair. He has literally no redeeming features yet we are expected to buy that Violet loves him, that David accepts this and that Sally forgives him for giving her Hep C. Oops, spoiler alert – he uses one of her insulin needles AT HER WEDDING and infects her. But it’s OK ‘cos he’s a loveable rogue. Apparently. Ugh.

Sorry, that turned into a bit of a rant, but I was so disappointed in this one. Skip it and stick to Bernadette, it’s like night and day.

Book Review | Half Bad

Half Bad Sally GreenHalf Bad  (Half Life #1) | Sally Green | 2014

I’ll confess to not reading the blurb of this book properly and only realising half way through that it was part of a trilogy. Facepalm. Oh well, please ignore my basic fail. I was drawn to this book when I learnt that it was a YA about witches. Having recently finished watching the third series of American Horror Story (Coven), I’ve had the feeling that witches would be the next big thing. Apparently the Half Life series has already been optioned by Fox for a film deal so looks like this hunch was correct.

Nathan is known as a ‘half code’ or ‘half blood’. Born to a white witch mother but with a black witch father he has always been regarded as different, as an unknown. Especially since his father is well-known as one of the most dangerous black witches in history. Nathan’s mother dies when he is very young so he is brought up by his gran and lives with his two sisters and brother – all pure blood white witches. In this world witches gradually become stronger until they reach the age of 17 and are given their gifts in order for their magic powers finally come to fruition. As Nathan grows up, the Council of White Witches become increasingly agitated about the potential power Nathan will have and whether his father’s dark nature will be hereditary so they apply stricter and stricter sanctions until eventually he is taken hostage. Having heard that black witches die if they don’t receive their gifts when they turn 17, Nathan decides that the only way to survive will be to find his father, no matter how terrifying his reputation is.

Half Bad  is a really strange one. A lot happens, but at the same time it feels like nothing happens. The pacing is all over the place. As Green tries to add more and more events and characters in you begin to lose the close identification with Nathan established in the beginning.  You’re waiting for Nathan to finally come face-to-face with his father and when this happens it’s actually a bit anti-climatic. Also, you can tell you’re being set up for a typical YA love triangle in the second and third book and this does not bode well for me.

That being said, there is a lot of good about the book. It’s interesting to take the old school mythology of black and white witches and apply it to contemporary culture – undertones of racism are clear and unsettling. This is something Coven touched upon too albeit more overtly. The more contemplative sections where Nathan is most solitary, reflecting on his situation are compelling and really create empathy in the reader for Nathan, even if this is lost later in the book.

I’m really split on this book. I mostly enjoyed it although I felt it was getting a bit tedious in the last third. My hope is that Green can salvage this in the second book, although I can’t say that I’m on tenterhooks to read it. Having read some other reviews I know that a lot of people really liked the book so if you’re a huge fan of this genre you might like it, just don’t expect too much. Unfortunately, the title is strangely appropriate: half bad.

Have you read Half Bad? What did you think of it?

#BEDM | Inside & Out Book Tag

I always loved reading as a child. I spent far more time reading books than I do nowadays that I have magazines and the internet. I used to take part in summer reading challenges at our local library where I’d read over 30 books during the schools holidays and I was delighted when they let me start taking books from the teenage section two years early. So today under the “best thing about childhood” prompt I thought I would do a book tag. I found this one at BooksBiscuitsandTea which seemed fun. It was originally created by Youtuber MathomBooks and I think has been floating about for around a year.

Book shelves

Inside flap/back of the book summaries: Too much information or not enough?
The blurb on the back is usually enough for me. If there is an additional synopsis in the cover I tend not to read it. I also never read the pages of praise for the author at the front either. I’ll decide, ta very much.

New book: What form do you want it in? Be honest: audio book, e-book, paperback or hardcover?
Paperback please! I love reading on my Kindle, books tend to be cheaper and easier to get (Amazon 1-click, you are dangerous!) but I do miss having the physical book. I love hardcover editions and will buy them, but more for displaying my favourite books, they’re a bit impractical to read. I’ve only ‘read’ one  audio book – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. I did this because it was required reading for uni but I found it impossible to get through, the audio book made it pretty funny though, the reader was so over dramatic.

Scribble while you read? Do you like to write in your books, taking notes, making comments, or do you keep your books clean?
I’ve only ever written in textbooks for uni, never in books I’m reading for enjoyment. I hate the idea of this – you’re ruining it for other people! Textbooks don’t matter so much, other people’s note could serve as a study aid but never, never novels. I don’t make notes in a separate book while I’m reading either – to me that’s like pausing a film to write down what someone says. Just enjoy it!

In your best voice, read for us your favourite first sentence from a book.
“Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” – Rebecca, Daphne Du Murier.

Does it matter to you whether the author is male or female when you’re deciding on a book? What if you’re unsure of the author’s gender?
No, don’t be so sexist!

Ever read ahead? Or have you read the last page before you got there?
This is something I used to do as a child all the time. I barely read books in order, I was that much of a cheater. But I’ve since grown out of my impatience and am happy to let the author decide when my curiosities will be satisfied.

Organised bookshelves or outrageous bookshelves.
Organised, particularly the ones that are not behind cupboard doors. Don’t want the place to look a mess! When I have a bigger place and more books I will have colour coded shelves. That is happening.

Under oath: Have you ever bought a book based on the cover alone?
Only all the time! I think graphic design is extremely important and a good cover can tell you all you need to know about a book. Case in point: Where’d you go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple.

Take it outside to read or stay in? 
Since I live in Scotland, mostly stay in. Although perhaps if I take A Song of Ice and Fire outside I’ll gain a better affinity for the Nights Watch. I do like to read outside while on holiday in sunnier climes though. Mostly I read in the bath or in bed. Somewhere cosy.

How about you? Let me know if you have done this tag, I’d love to read it, or leave your responses in the comments below.