First Lines Friday: 24th March

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

You have to be quick,
none of this pretending to be browsing business
that some shoplifters go for.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

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We Come Apart by Sarah Crossan and Brian Conaghan

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary:

Nicu has emigrated from Romania and is struggling to find his place in his new home. Meanwhile, Jess’s home life is overshadowed by violence. When Nicu and Jess meet, what starts out as friendship grows into romance as the two bond over their painful pasts and hopeful futures. But will they be able to save each other, let alone themselves?


I actually didn’t really dig this book.  Why pick a book I don’t like for First Lines Friday?  Well, Sarah Crossan’s One was insanely good, and I’m sure fans of her work will still appreciate her latest novel.  For me though, the whole thing was just slightly underwhelming.  I can see it working well as a film, but in this style – the poetic. tumbling-down-the-page writing that I’ve come to know Sarah Crossan for – I just don’t think the story works.  Still, it has some excellent first lines!

Check out the First Lines Fridays archive for more posts like this!

Happy reading,

Emma

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March 24, 2017
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Book Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

25573977TITLE: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

AUTHOR: Katarina Bivald

GENRE: Adult, Fiction, Chick Lit

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Swedish tourist in Iowa must be in want of a man.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Travelling to a small American town in Iowa to meet her pen pal, Swedish bookworm Sara is surprised to learn that Amy has recently passed away.  To honour Amy’s friendship with this shy tourist, the people of Broken Wheel decide to take Sara under their wing, determined to keep her around for as long as possible – even if that means trying to set her up with one of the locals.  Set on repaying the town, Sara opens up a bookshop, determined to get the town reading…

I love that this was a book about books – that element of it was really fun.  There were references to dozens of books and authors I love, and Sara’s passion and enthusiasm for reading was so infectious.  Other than that, Sara’s personality fell a little flat for me.  I would also have liked to have heard more about Sara’s backstory too.  It felt like there was the potential to make her really interesting – for example, she is from Sweden (as is the author) and it might have been fun to learn a little of her culture or to have seen even a few words of Swedish.

Though Sara was a pretty plain protagonist, this did allow for the book to revolve around the town rather than one person.  I thought the locals of Broken Wheel had tons of personality – I loved George, a recovering alcoholic with a heart of gold, and Grace, the tough-as-nails bar owner, and I can understand why Sara didn’t want to leave.

The plot really was so obvious, but that does seem to be the case with most chick lits I’ve read – it is a safe read in that respect, and that isn’t necessarily a criticism.  My biggest problem however was the chemistry between Sara and Tom.  I just didn’t feel it at all.  Even scenes of intimacy seemed kind of awkward… I don’t know, I’ve read reviews where people really enjoyed their chemistry, but they seemed like a real unnatural match to me.  Of course I still rooted for them, because I’m not a complete spoilsport!  Even so, in terms of relationships, I’d say I found the complications of Justin falling for an older woman – who, I won’t say – far more engaging than the core relationship of this novel.

TL;DR: The main romance is questionable, but the people of Broken Wheel more than make up for it.  Sara will make you remember why you fell in love with reading.

Star Rating: ★★★¾ (3.75/5)

Emma

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March 23, 2017
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The House of the Tailor of Gloucester

I recently visited the city of Gloucester, a city with a rich Roman history, residing in the South West of England.  I was travelling to see friends, to experience a new city, but secretly, secretly, I was most excited about seeing the House of the Tailor of Gloucester.

The story goes that one Saturday night a tailor left his shop, a waistcoat unfinished within.  Come Monday morning, the waistcoat was mysteriously complete, all but one button, with a note saying “no more twist” attached.  Though I believe it was later found to be two workers who had done some overtime in secret to avoid being seen on Sunday in town, Beatrix Potter was inspired by the story nonetheless, and chose it as the setting for her book, The Tailor of Gloucester.

The shop is down a quaint little lane between the high street and the Cathedral.  Admittedly, the first time I walked down there, I walked straight past it, distracted at the time by the arts and crafts shop on the other side of the street.  The building is part shop, part museum, with information dotted around the walls, items in cabinets, and literally every surface covered with memorabilia.  It was almost overwhelming how much could be fit into such a small space!

It’s only a small thing, fifteen minutes of your day, but if you are in Gloucester, I recommend popping in and having a look around.  There’s some sweet Beatrix Potter souvenirs and entry to the museum part of the building is (miraculously) absolutely free!

Check out the shop’s website for more information.

Happy travels!

Emma

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March 14, 2017
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Book Review: The Gigantic Beard That Was Evil

TITLE: The Gigantic Beard That Was EvilThe Gigantic Beard that was Evil

AUTHOR: Stephen Collins

GENRE: Fiction, Graphic Novel

Beneath the skin of everything is something nobody can know.  The job of the skin is to keep it all in and never let anything show.

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

One day, on the island of Here, an enormous, unruly beard explodes from Dave’s face.  It disrupts society, throwing life into chaos as the beard begins to threaten the order of things.  It is too reminiscent of There, the dark unknown land beyond the edge of Here.  The people work together to contain the beard, but it just continues to grow and grow…

I have (almost) nothing but praise for this book.  What I expected to be just a funny story about facial hair ended up being something so much more.  Of course, it was still funny – a gigantic beard is a funny thing; the entire concept was hilariously far-fetched, but it was the message that really moved me.

In a safe, organised society, the beard represents the uncontrollable, the unknown: change.  And what do we do with these things that disrupt our sense of “normal” – we fear it, try to remove it.  Even if that means hurting people.

The question of where the beard came from is still unclear, but I don’t think that matters.  Change is inevitable.  It made me consider some of the current situations happening in the world today – perhaps with a little more flexibility, a little more tolerance, there would be less “Here” and “There”, less “Us” and “Them”.

For a book about a beard, it certainly was a thought-provoking read.  Was the beard really evil?  Personally, I don’t think so.  It just needed the space to grow.

Star Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Emma

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March 8, 2017
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First Lines Friday: 3rd March

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?  If you want to make your own post, feel free to use or edit the banner above, and follow the rules below:

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

If you’re using Twitter, don’t forget to use #FirstLinesFridays!

First of all, I’m sorry.  Second of all, you’re welcome.


Read on to find out which book this extract is from…

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The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Summary:

In The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo, Amy mines her past for stories about her teenage years, her family, relationships, and sex and shares the experiences that have shaped who she is – a woman with the courage to bare her soul to stand up for what she believes in, all while making us laugh.

Ranging from the raucous to the romantic, the heartfelt to the harrowing, this highly entertaining and universally appealing collection is the literary equivalent of a night out with your best friends – an unforgettable and fun adventure that you wish could last forever. Whether she’s experiencing lust-at-first-sight while in the airport security line, sharing her own views on love and marriage, admitting to being an introvert, or discovering her cross-fit instructor’s secret bad habit, Amy Schumer proves to be a bighearted, brave, and thoughtful storyteller that will leave you nodding your head in recognition, laughing out loud, and sobbing uncontrollably – but only because it’s over.


This is one of the many eBooks I was recently given.  I’ve popped it onto my Kindle, ready for when I’m done with The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend.  I have heard mixed reviews about it but from the first page (and first lines) it sounds quite funny, so I’m willing to give it a shot.

What are you reading at the moment?

Check out the First Lines Fridays archive for more posts like this!

Emma

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March 3, 2017
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Round-Robin Fiction: Haven

I’ve wanted to try something like this for a while – a round-robin way of storytelling, where everyone has a chance to shape the story.  The idea is that I will start off below with an opening, and if you want to add to the story, simply post your few lines or paragraph (though no longer than 150-200 words) below as a comment.  I’ll pick the “best fit” to add to the story – make sure you leave a name too, so you can be credited for your contribution*!  You can join in the story at any time, don’t be shy.

Who knows how long the story will be, or what will happen along the way…


There was something dainty in the way Sally stepped between the shards of broken glass towards the kiosk.  A sort of grace in the manner she held herself at all times, Kian thought, that she refused to lose despite the dark grey sky and far-off glow of flame on the horizon.  They’d been doing well recently too, and there was some colour in her cheeks again – she looked good, and he could almost imagine what she had looked like without those weary, searching eyes, with her cheeks a little plumper.  Whilst he waited for her to catch up, Kian looked out the little window across Haven Park with a frown.  The grass, once a luscious green, lay dead and crisp.  Trees hung limp, their leafless branches brushing the dry ground.  They hadn’t seen anyone for days now.


*By contributing to this story, you agree to give Wandering Words non-exclusive rights to publishing your work indefinitely on the website and in any eBooks published by Wandering Words in the future.

February 28, 2017
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Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

So, the cake wasn’t a lie after all.

I’ve known about the existence of the Portal board game for a long time, but yesterday I was finally able to play it.  It had everything one could ever want from the famous Valve video game: test subjects, GLaDOS, a turret, Ratman and Wheatley cards, portal guns and portals, and of course cake.

Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Set-up took some time – a lot of it was spent being very excited over things like the Companion Cube and the incinerator.

I would say it took us a good half an hour at least to get into the flow of the game.   Even though each turn had only four steps – deploy, move, activate and recycle – additional rules were added quite often with the presence of character cards, or when the Companion Cube or Turret were in play.

The aim of the game is to have the most pieces of cake by the time another player’s test subjects are all incinerated.  This is really difficult to do as the board is constantly changing and moving like a conveyor belt, and like I said above, the rules are often being changed too.  It is also really hard to keep hold of your cake, as it naturally moves towards the incinerator as the pieces of the board are activated and recycled to the back of the test chambers.

One game lasted about an hour in the end, though it easily could have gone on for much, much longer as the friends I were playing with were evenly matched with me in terms of skill and strategy!  And it very much is a game built on strategy – you’ve got to really plan ahead, and there’s very little in the game that is down to luck, so that can’t be used as an excuse.Portal: The Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game

Overall, fans of the original video game will find the board game adaptation very aesthetic, especially with the slices of cake, Turret and Companion Cube models.  Even for those who aren’t familiar with the story, this is still a great strategy game to play with friends – just be careful not to incinerate your friendship.

Emma

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February 26, 2017
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What I’m Reading: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of the Broken Wheel Recommend

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald

I was so, so lucky recently to be given a huge collection of eBooks by a friend.  There were so many there that I didn’t even know where to start.  Scrolling through, the title and cover of this book caught my attention, and I made a start right away.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend so far is very reminiscent of The Little Bookshop on the Seine by Rebecca Raisin: foreign bookshop worker finds herself thrown into a new culture.  In fact, the main characters even (almost) share the same name: Sara(h).  But this is only a good thing; I love these kinds of books!

I’m expecting new friendships will be formed, and probably a romance that will make Sara stay in Broken Wheel.  The coolest part so far for me is that Sara is from Sweden – I can’t remember the last Chick Lit I read that didn’t have a main character from America or England.  So, I’m very much hoping we get a glimpse of Swedish culture at some point in the book.

What’s everyone else reading this week?

Emma

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February 23, 2017
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Book Review: Gemma Bovery by Posy Simmonds

Gemma BoveryTITLE: Gemma Bovery

AUTHOR: Posy Simmonds

GENRE: Graphic Novel, Adult Fiction

FIRST PUBLISHED: 1999

INFO | Goodreads

BUY | The Book Depository


Review

Set in France, Gemma Bovery is told from the perspective of a French baker, and follows his obsession with a young English woman who moves into the area with her husband.  A silent observer, Joubert lives voyeuristically by watching an affair unfold between Gemma and a local man, but is driven to hysteria as he believes her fate will be the same as the protagonist of Madame Bovary – ending in tragedy.

I really have mixed feelings about this book.  I was close to giving up on it, but I kept going because I was desperate to know how things ended – namely, whether Joubert’s Madame Bovary prophecy would come true.

On the plus side, I have never read a graphic novel like this one.  There is so much text that it read more like an illustrated book than a graphic novel, and I thought that was really exciting.  Although told by Joubert, the story also includes long quotes from Gemma’s private journals, and I think it was necessary to have these parts as text opposed to pictures (as long-winded as they sometimes were), so they can be read in their original form, without being skewed by Joubert’s perspective.

I also liked experiencing Normandy through Gemma’s eyes – it actually gave me itchy feet and made me want to visit (even though Joubert was so negative about English visitors).  There was a lot of untranslated bits of French conversation which did make everything really authentic but was also a bit of a pain as I didn’t know what anyone was saying…

On the whole though, this book just didn’t work for me.  I think ultimately I was left feeling disappointed, particularly by the ending, which was actually completely underwhelming.

I think one of the biggest problems was that I didn’t feel like I engaged with any of the characters.  Gemma’s life was so mundane for so much of the story that I just didn’t actually care for her future or her marriage at all, and the only exciting part really was the affair itself.  I didn’t care for her boring husband, or the annoying English family who holidayed nearby.  But in a way, that’s exactly the point – Joubert was blinded by his obsession, and found her fascinating regardless.

To an extent, I wonder if the reader is meant to feel disengaged on purpose.  One positive of this is how it gave me the opportunity to be objective about the unfolding events.  As an outsider, I could sense Joubert getting increasingly unhinged as the story went on.  I quickly sensed that he wasn’t actually a reliable narrator through Gemma’s diary entries, which in the end barely mentioned Joubert at all (a great example of perspective).

Star Rating: ★★ (2/5)

Emma

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February 22, 2017
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Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye

After posting some of the beautiful pages from MinaLima’s edition of Peter Pan the other day, it made me want to share some more of the really aesthetic books in my collection.

Another book I am really proud of is my copy of Warren the 13th and the All-Seeing Eye.  The story is about a mistreated bellhop called Warren who finds himself caught up in the mysteries of the strange mansion he calls home.  I have a sturdy hardback edition, and every page holds a new surprise: there’s a mixture of puzzles, doodles and intricate Victorianesque designs.

In lieu of a proper review (though I would probably award it 5* if I had reviewed it), I’d much rather post photos of this work of art instead:

I could take photos of this book all day, but I’ve got to leave something for potential readers.  Even though it is a children’s book, there is so much for older readers, like the use of language and of course the beautiful illustrations.

Happy reading!

Emma

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February 18, 2017
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