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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.

I Read the F*@#ing Books | Jaws

Jaws Book vs Film

Here’s a film that I’m sure most people will be familiar with – Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. For, me, it’s one of my all time favourite films. It’s one of the ones I watch repeatedly – whatever time of day, if it comes on TV, I’m hooked again within minutes. I was vaguely aware that it was adapted from a book but never thought about reading it until I happened to see it on offer in Fopp (2 for £5 I think it was). However, as I am interested in book – film – tv – games etc. etc. adaptations I thought I would give it a fair go.

Peter Benchley’s Jaws was first published in 1974, just one year before the film was released as the producers had bought the rights before publication. The overall story arc of the book is the same as the film so will be familiar to most. When a young woman is fatally attacked by a great white shark on Amity beach at the start of the summer, the local police, mayor and business owners are hoping it’s a one off. As a small resort town relying on the summer trade, Police Chief Martin Brody is convinced not to allow the news to go public – believing that it was a one off, a freak accident. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, the shark continuing to terrorise the beach. When it becomes obvious that the shark isn’t going to move on to more ‘natural’ feeding grounds, Brody teams up with ichthyologist (fish scientist to you and I) Matt Hooper, and pro shark hunter Quint. They head out on to the open water on Quint’s boat Orca to face the great white at sea.

The main difference between the book and the film are the various extra sub-plots in the book and the characterisation of the three main characters. There is also an additional main character – Ellen Brody, the police chief’s wife, who we do see in the film, but don’t get to know her so well. She is an interesting character and although I don’t think this is absolutely necessary, stops the book being entirely male dominated as the film is. Ellen feels like an outsider on Amity island, she is from a wealthy background and used to be part of the holiday crowd so even when she marries the local police chief, she never really feels accepted as a resident. When Matt Hooper arrives they realise they knew each other in their high school years and it triggers a restlessness in Ellen. Their pursuant relationship is uncomfortable, slightly shocking, but adds an element of ‘domestic thriller’ to novel as well as an interesting debate on class and status. It doesn’t redeem Hooper or Ellen to the reader, but instead focuses down Brody’s character more as a consequence. Brody has always suffered with an inferiority complex – from his wife’s wealth. Hooper’s intellect, even Quint’s masculinity – and we see how the fear of being right about this prevents him in confronting his wife about what is going on in their marriage. This also gives you an understanding of many of Brody’s motivations and actions, for example, his reluctance to stand by his convictions and how he allows the mayor and even the local news reporter to dictate how he does his job.

What I found to be lacking in the book was the development of the relationship between Brody, Hooper and Quint while on the Orca. However, I realise this is me looking at it through Spielberg tinted glasses – the scene where they compare scars, Quint makes his Indianapolis speech and they all sing “Show Me The Way To Go Home” is one of my favourites. And, Brody becoming friendly with Hooper just ain’t gonna fly with the whole Ellen affair debacle, BUT, it does mean that all three of them are pretty unlikeable and stay unlikeable for the duration. For this fundamental reason, I have to say that the film is miles, leagues if you will, better than the book.

That said, it’s a good book, even if it doesn’t match up to its, frankly, outstanding film counterpart. If you’re a bit of a sharkophile, you’ll cringe when the shark is described as a mindless killing machine, but because you’ll mostly dislike the human characters you’ll be pleased when he’s doing a good job of munching his way through them.

Have you read Jaws? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments.

Book Review | I’ll Give You the Sun

Book Review I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson follows twins Noah and Jude who were once super close, but jealously, mistrust and family tragedy tore them apart. The narrative is interesting with alternate chapters being told by 13 year old Noah and a 16 year old Jude. At 13 Noah was socially isolated, desperate to find his place in a local art school and quietly falling deeply in love with the boy next door. Meanwhile his sister was going through a rebellious phase – having gained herself a reputation as a bit of a daredevil, she was gaining an altogether different reputation hanging out with the popular crowd. Signs of rot were beginning to creep in with the twins becoming distant, mostly due to competing for their parents attention, but could easily slip back into their bond. Three years on and we learn from a 16 year old Jude that they don’t talk. Their roles have completely reversed and laden with guilt, Jude has isolated herself completely while Noah has turned his back on his artwork. Both Noah and Jude are holding on to so many burdens, secrets and lies that it seems almost impossible that they’ll reconcile, however desperately they may want to.

First things first: the writing style is not for everyone. The prose tries frantically to be poetic and profound but, for me, falls flat. My main problem was all the metaphors. So many metaphors! To use a metaphor myself, Nelson’s writing is like a 1st year student who has just learnt about metaphors. Some of the imagery that Nelson uses is genuinely beautiful, but it’s so diluted by all the other superfluous metaphors that you barely notice it after the first dozen pages. The first chapter was from Noah’s POV so I would have understood this from him (as the artist who constantly imagines paintings in his head), but it was soon clear that this is just how Nelson writes, not an attempt to give the twins their own voices. I found this to be very disappointing.

I have read quite a few YA books and I usually find their romantic story lines overblown and unrealistic but I felt that I’ll Give You the Sun took this to the next level and actually made me deeply uncomfortable. The two main characters meet the loves of their lives at the ages 13 and 16 and it’s so intense. There is a particular scene with Noah and Brian where Noah’s mum walk in on them that made me feel a bit ick, bearing in mind that they were 13 years old at the time – still children in my mind, not young adults. I thought this was a shame as I did really like Noah and Brian’s relationship and the slow build up, but it seemed as though Nelson suddenly hit the accelerator and it got way too fast way too quickly.

The ending also got the accelerator treatment. Perhaps too much time was spent on all the damn metaphors but the last chapter was incredibly rushed. Incredibly vicious lies and actions (and sabotages) are revealed and forgiven in the space of the same page and this just didn’t ring true at all. It didn’t make sense for characters who were previously quite sensitive and brooding to be like “ach well shit happens” (paraphrasing obvs).

All that said, I honestly didn’t completely hate this book. The characters are really unique and well imagined. The image of a tortured artist may be a bit of a well-worn cliché but they did feel authentic in the book. I also liked the plot and the story arc up until the very end for the reasons above. I thought that the way that the story was split between Noah and Jude at different times was really clever as you were getting this fragmented story which worked well with the overall concept of each twin having their own half of the story and misunderstanding/assumptions about the other. So it’s not a complete write off, and if you like a bizarre writing style you might actually really love this book, many people do if Goodreads is anything to go on.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what you think. I’m also interested if anyone else has the same issues as me with romance and sex in YA novels?

I’ll Give You the Sun was the June read for the #sassybooks book club by Water Painted Dreams and Colours and Carousels.

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 | We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Book Review We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves Karen Joy Fowler

Rosemary is an apparently introverted college student, a bit of a loner, reluctant to open herself up and share her life with anyone. She has some heavy baggage from childhood that she will absolutely not discuss. In fact, she won’t even allow herself to think about it, self-censoring her own thoughts. Until one day when a chance encounter with a suitably dramatic drama-major unleashes her deeply buried wild side. Harlow crashes into her life smashing plates and yelling, and in this, reminds Rosemary of her long-lost sister; her twin; her “whirlwind other half”; missing since the age of 5; Fern.

Suddenly Rosemary is unable not to think of Fern. She sees her in her classes, in Harlow and mostly, in herself. Realising that confronting the issue will never get any easier, she finally allows herself to revisit and re-interrogate her childhood memories of life with and without Fern.

From here the story dips in and out of present times and flashbacks. The memories are not always told chronologically and this is extremely effective in showing Rosemary’s state of mind as she races through the past having finally allowed the floodgates to open. The happy memories come first and easily while the more painful memories are eked out, forced through conversations with family members. As Rosemary was so young, the nature of the memories call for a good deal of self-reflection which is a really interesting aspect of the book. Are we capable of being self-critical enough to accurately recall past actions? Guilt and hurt are powerful emotions – do our memories self select in order to protect us from feeling them again? Can we trust our own sense of self?

At it’s core, We Are All Completely Beside Ourself is an exploration of our human selves. Does anything separate us from our ape cousins, or do we just tell ourselves that it does? It’s an emotional ride – I not one who generally wells up at books but in particular the passage where Rosemary discovers what happened to Fern hits hard.

By it’s own admission We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves very much starts in the middle. It’s a slow start but it eventually hits it’s stride a few chapters in. Stick with it, it gets good. It gets really good.

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.