Book review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

On my bedside table: I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

27274343

Why I picked it up: Just one of my library raids.

What it is about: An anonymous narrator and her boyfriend Jake are driving through rural American to have dinner with his parents. They’ve only been dating for a few weeks  but she’s already thinking about ending things. At first it’s hard to imagine why she would, as their conversations are deep and filled with inside jokes, her noticing little details and reminding herself that the way he adjusts his hair or scratches the back of his neck are some of the reasons why she likes him.
But during the first half of the book we also find out about some dark secrets this girl is hiding. The Caller, for example: this mysterious presence that keeps on calling her and leaving the same mysterious message over and over again. And the strangest part is: he seems to be calling from her own number.

As they finally approach Jake’s parents’ house, a secluded farm wrapped in darkness, it’s obvious that things are about to go terribly wrong.
After an awkward dinner where you could cut the tension with a knife, the narrator finds some time to explore the rest of the house, which is pretty much what you would expect at this point: locked doors, mysterious presences, creepy paintings in the basement, and black and white photos depicting little girls that look just like her.

After dinner, the two hit the road again. It’s late at night and the snow is whirling. By now there have been so many omens that you just want to scream, GET THE HECK OUT OF THERE!!
When Jake takes an unexpected detour to an abandoned high school, things really take a turn for the worst.

Would I recommend it: MAN. I am not kidding you, this is one of the best books I have ever read (something I seem to be saying in every single review I write). I’m Thinking of Ending Things is one of those stories where you are in someone’s head but by the end of it you’re no longer sure whose head you’re in. I read it while I was dogsitting in a house I’d never been before, by the time I finished it it was dark outside and I couldn’t bring myself to leave the couch for how freaking scared I was. Brilliant.

Book review- The Regulars

I’m reading a lot recently, so here, have another book review.
Disclaimer! Minor spoilers.

On my bedside table: The Regulars by Georgia Clark

FullSizeRender (11)

Why I picked it up: It was all over my Instagram feed when it came out in the UK and all my ex colleagues were raving about it. It was forever on loan at the library so when I finally spotted a copy on the shelf I grabbed it and now I don’t want to return it ever.

What it is about: Evie, Krista and Willow are three best friends trying to make it through their twenties in New York. They are the Regulars: regular girls with regular jobs, cool but not popular, not ugly but not stunning-beautiful, never really standing out.
Wannabe-journalist and passionate feminist Evie is a copyeditor at a glossy magazine, where her attempts to cover issues such as bisexuality, women’s representation and rape victim support are perpetually dismissed in favour of “Find your inner bad girl!” or “Is Facebook killing your sex life?” articles.
Krista is a hot mess who dropped out of Law School in order to be an actress, but she’s forever late for her auditions and hasn’t paid the rent in the last seven months.
Delicate and sensitive Willow lives under the pressure of her father’s presence, a successful film director who makes her photography look bland and lifeless.

But everything changes when Krista is given a small purple bottle containing a mysterious potion called Pretty, which has the ability to turn anyone into the sexiest, hottest version of themselves.

One drop, one week.

One by one, the girls give in and take the Pretty.  To their dismay, they soon find out that prosperous breasts, a flat stomach and shiny hair can in fact open many doors: Krista is offered a role in a movie co-starring her childhood crush, Willow finds inspiration to take photographs that will be exhibited at her first successful exhibition, and Evie gets to date her favourite writer and long-lived wet dream Velma Wolff.

But the Pretty has some side effects too (beside turning your insides out right before the transformation): Willow has to sacrifice her mental stability in order to capture the perfect angle, Krista is fired twice in consequence of accidents involving masturbating with a Tween King trophy and exposing her crush’s micropenis to the World Wide Web, and Velma Wolff turns out to be a bit of a bitch.

The Regulars is a brilliant Comedy of Errors that sees three ordinary girls experiencing the world from a different perspective, enduring a rollercoaster of emotions, gradually realising that in spite of a hot body it’s still them inside of it, and eventually learning that they don’t need the Pretty or any other magical elixir to be themselves, and to love their bodies and personalities just the way they are.

Would I recommend it: YES. This is one of the best books I’ve ever read. It’s such a page-turner: witty, clever, and most of all HILARIOUS. Go grab a copy NOW.

Book review – Paulina & Fran

On my bedside table: Paulina & Fran by Rachel B. Glaser

FullSizeRender (1)

What it is about: Paulina and Fran are two curly girls in their late teens/early twenties who attend art school in New England.
Paulina is someone who “records her orgasms and listens to them for her own amusement”  and fantasises over her funeral (featuring “swans, celebrities and rivers of tears”) at someone else’s funeral. In Paulina’s world, she comes first. Bold but scornful, she’s a self-proclaimed queen bee, well aware of her sturdy body and its sexiness. Paulina also seems to be the only art major who thinks that art is useless and unnecessary (“Art is an adolescent impulse to busy oneself with oneself”).
Fran is also quirky but in a more subtle way. She’s sweet and dreamy, a bit of a wallflower, but more serious about her art aspirations.

The two girls are drawn together during a study trip to Norway by a common sense of detachment from the rest of their peers and an ambiguous interest for each other.
Fran seems the first human being Paulina is genuinely interested in. They quickly grow inseparable, building a relationship that revolves around a mutual inability to relate to anyone else. They bond over their curls and a make-believe sexual adventure with a Nordic stallion named Blood Axe.
However, their friendship is intense but brief. The girls quickly drift apart when Fran starts dating Paulina’s discarded boyfriend, Julian.

Among student parties and weekly trips to SUPERTHRIFT, Glaser’s characters move in an aseptic scenery where the future looks blurry and  everything concerning art has already been said.
After graduation, Paulina proceeds to launch her very own hair salon chain, Supercurl, while Fran moves to Ohio and ends up abandoning her art dreams in favour of a dull cubicle job.
As the years go by, Paulina and Fran are leading separate lives, apart from each other yet interlaced by past lovers, forgotten library cards and other small traces that constantly remind them of each other’s existence.

Would I recommend it: Not to everyone. I found it interesting but a bit slow at times. This book is more about personal development and charatcer relationships  rather than things actually happening. I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who’s more into action.

1500

Book review – The Girls

WARNING! Minor spoilers.

FullSizeRender (5).jpg

On my bedside table: The Girls by Emma Cline

Why I picked it up: This novel came out when I was still working at Hachette in London and I remember a bunch of colleagues praising and applauding it. I was immediately intrigued by the cover (although the US version is better than the UK one, in my humble opinion) as well as by the California/summer/Sixties/hippie-ness aura around it. I knew it was getting brilliant reviews but I wanted to wait for the paperback, as I don’t particularly like the hardback format (plus they are too expensive). But then we moved to New Zealand and I wasn’t technically allowed to buy books, so I postponed it again, until I got a library card here in Wellington and saw they had a copy in the Bestsellers section. I grabbed it straight away.

What it is about: The novel is set in Northern California and the story is told by the point of view of Evelyn Boyd over two different time periods, the present and the summer of 1969. Present-day Evelyn seems to be dragging the remains of her teenage years loneliness with her, as she house-sits for an old friend and is reminded of her obscure and troubled past by a couple of teenagers’ remarks. This gives her the change to bring back to life her fourteen-year-old self, loundign around on long summer days and jostling between her mother’s ever-changing boyfriends and her own lack of friends.
But everything changes when she stumbles upon Suzanne: barefoot, filthy, long wild haired, stealing toilet paper from the local store. To Evie, she is the epitome of freedom. Suzanne exhales an incredibly attracting energy that Evie can’t excape. She becomes obsessed with her, until Suzanne takes her to the ranch – this excluded, dilapidated commune inhabited by an extensive group of other girls and kids and run by Russell –somebody who you will immediately dislike if you’re a woman reader, but who the girls in the book seem to adore. Evie is irremediably drawn into this circle of nonconformist, anti-establishment people.
As the story progresses, for us outside spectators it becomes more and more clear that something is going terribly wrong. But for Evie, desperate to feel accepted, living at the ranch is her chance to finally be part of something. As she retracts more and more from her old civilised life and gets more involved in what seems to her a new exotic world, everything around her starts to crumble, until the cult reveals itself in its true deadly essence.

Would I recommend it: Holy moly yes. This book is such a page-turner. When “the murder” is first mentioned, it came as a total surprise to me. Although it was clear that something was going to happen to break the placid flowing of events, I personally wasn’t expecting anything so dramatic. (But I’m also terrible at predicting anything at all, for that matter.)
However, I feel like the killing is nothing but a minor part of what the author really wants to project. What stuck the most with me is the general feeling that the novel conveys, which is more about the loneliness of growing up without points of reference, in a disrupted family, and with a desperate need to feel loved and to belong. Emma Cline is brilliant at developing a story where the pages are heavy with almost tangible sensations that require your whole body and senses to step into play: when you read you can almost feel the summer heath on your skin, the earthy smell of oaks and pines, the dirt between your toes.

fullsizerender-1