Saturday 31 January 2015

stasialikesbooks | Book review: Paper Aeroplanes and Goose by Dawn O'Porter.

Paper Aeroplanes

It's the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn't more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo's jealous ex-best friend and Renée's growing infatuation with Flo's brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives.

I downloaded Paper Aeroplanes last year when reviews of it where all over the place on blogs and booktube and I can see now why it generated so much hype. Paper Aeroplanes displays a refreshingly authentic look at the experiences of growing up as a teenage girl, losing friends, and making new ones.

The narrative does not shy away from subjects like periods and sex, things that real teenage girls experience and discuss, and that is certainly something that I think there should be more of in YA novels. However, the writing style did at times strike me as a little too young for the novel's content.

The novel is written in a style that I would expect from a book for younger readers, maybe from 11-13, and for me this jarred with the themes and subjects portrayed. The dialogue in particular at times did not feel like it fit with the ages of the girls. Renée and Flo are both fifteen in this novel and their stories feel authentic to fifteen year olds, but their voices don't. Their voices are also very similar, which caused some confusion at first because the narrative switches between the two girls. The name of each girl always comes before a section in her narrative but their voices are so similar that it took a while before I stopped getting confused about which girl was which.

I don't mean to suggest that this is a bad book, it certainly isn't, and I enjoyed the stories of the two girls and their friendship a lot, but I'm just a little unclear about who the intended audience actually is.

3/5 stars.

The review for the next novel in the series, Goose, is under the cut. I read the two one after the other so it makes sense for me to put the reviews in one post, but there are spoilers for Paper Aeroplanes in the review for Goose. So, you've been warned!

Wednesday 28 January 2015

stasialikesbooks | Announcing: The Gossip Girl Review Project.

I think we might be able to call this a Feature. My very first StasiaLikesBooks Feature. We might also call it 'a foolish thing to do' but never mind.

'But what is this Feature?' I hear no one ask. Well, it's The Gossip Girl Review Project (GGRP for short). I, dear reader, have decided that before the end of 2015 I will read and review, on this blog, all 13 Gossip Girl books. Why? I don't know. It might be fun?

I am a huge fan of the TV series and am currently re-watching it for research purposes (I'm taking this feature very seriously) so in a reverse of the usual, I'm actually hoping the books will live up to everything I love about the show. So the plan is to completely lean into that. I'll be using the same headings to divide each review - concentrating on all the most important things from the TV show, like the schemes, parties, and Chuck Bass. If you've watched and loved the show and want to know how it compares to the books without actually reading the books then look no further! This is the feature for you.

So without further ado: my very first Gossip Girl Review.

Have you seen the pilot episode of the TV show? It's basically that. Serena van der Woodsen returns to the Upper East Side to find that her old best friend, Blair Waldorf, no longer wants anything to do with her, Blair's boyfriend, Nate, is still in love with her, and Chuck Bass is as creepy as ever. It also turns out that getting subpar grades, being kicked out of boarding school, and not doing any extra-curricular activities ever do not add up to the best looking college applications. Who'd have guessed?

Familiar scenes
The plot is pretty much the exact plot of the pilot episode. There are a few differences, particularly in the characters, but apart from Vanessa's short film auditions it's almost scene for scene.

What's different?
Everyone has siblings! Blair has a little brother, Chuck has a little brother, Eric is Serena's older brother and more frat boy than depressed, closeted teen. Chuck's mum is alive! Serena's dad is there! Vanessa goes to the same school as the other girls and has a shaved head. Dan is 100% emo poetry boy. The Kiss on the Lips party is actually a benefit for an endangered bird that lives in Central Park. But worst of all... Rufus Humphrey is not the kind, ageing rockstar giving sound fatherly advice over homemade waffles. No one could have prepared me for that kind of disappointment.

Fanciest fancy party
The bird party. I think it's still called The Kiss on the Lips party (Confession - I read the book a few weeks ago so can't really remember) but I'm renaming it The Bird Party.

Most conniving scheme
There isn't actually a whole lot of scheming in this one. I'm hoping the schemes will come in more in the later books, but we will just have to wait and see. For now I'll go with Blair encouraging the entire school to believe that Serena was kicked out of boarding school for contracting numerous STDs, falling pregnant, and operating a drug ring from her dorm room. It's not exactly a scheme but it is an impressively elaborate rumour.

What is Chuck Bass up to?
Being SUPER CREEPY. At the start of the TV show Chuck does his fair share of creeping but good lord. If you had told me that season one Chuck was a toned down version of book Chuck I don't think I would have believed you. But now here we are. I will never be able to unread the cheerily described stories of Chuck hiding in wardrobes and massaging Serena's feet.

How off the rails is Jenny Humphrey?
Right now we're in the stage where Jenny is just a misguided teen who will do almost anything to be a part of the In Crowd. However I can definitely see the seeds of the power hungry, sneaky scheming Jenny I know and love.

Join me in a few weeks for the next GG review and to find out if Chuck can possibly get any creepier!

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Monday 26 January 2015

Christmas and New Year's Eve.

A few of my favourite Christmas gifts from my parents, taken using my favourite gift of all - a new 25mm lens for my DSLR.

I had a cold on New Year's Eve so spent the evening sipping a hot toddy but even a sore throat couldn't stop me from popping the cork on the sparkling wine in our front garden as I do every year.

I know this post is a little late but that cold really stuck around! I hope you're all having a great new year so far.

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Thursday 22 January 2015

stasialikesbooks | Book review: Love, Nina: Despatches from Family Life by Nina Stibbe.

In 1982 Nina Stibbe, a twenty-year-old from Leicester, moved to London to work as a nanny for a very particular family. It was a perfect match: Nina had no idea how to cook, look after children, or who the weirdos who called round were. And the family, busy discussing how to swear in German or the merits (or otherwise) of turkey mince, were delighted by her lack of skills.

Love, Nina is the collection of letters she wrote home gloriously describing her 'domestic' life, the unpredictable houseguests and the cat everyone loved to hate.

I want to read more non-fiction this year and after everything I'd read about Love, Nina I knew it would be the perfect book to start with. And I was right.

Nina Stibbe's letters from her time as a nanny are full of amusing stories about her life as part of the literary-minded household where she cared for two wildly funny young boys. The boys are responsible for most of my favourite stories and conversations, closely followed by the playwright Alan Bennet, who features rather frequently as he lived in the same street and used to pop round for tea most nights.

I've read online that Bennet is not too pleased with the way he's remembered in Stibbe's book but honestly, I think there are far worse ways to be remembered. There is a layer of fondness over every memory mentioned in the book and the people even more so. Stibbe's letters are so funny and endearing it almost makes me want to become a nanny myself. But only if the family were as funny and as lenient with the cleaning as the one Stibbe worked for. It's clear from these letters that Stibbe loved her job and the people she worked for, and that they loved her too.

I honestly don't think there's anything I can say about this book that hasn't already been said dozens of times, but it's an extremely enjoyable read and even if it doesn't make you laugh out loud it's sure to make you smile.

5/5 stars.

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