Monday, 6 March 2017

What I Read... February 2017

 
Love at Second Sight - Cathy Hopkins
 
A cute romantic read about teenager Jo's search for the boy she fell in love with in a past life. I loved the London setting, especially the rich imagery of Highgate Cemetery.
 
If you enjoy light-hearted YA, this could be one for you.
 
 
 
Unknown Pleasures - Inside Joy Division - Peter Hook
 
This is a difficult one to review, because although I read the whole thing within 24 hours, I didn't find it easy.

The opening sections were probably my favourite, where he's going to punk gigs and first taking a serious interest in music. These sections also capture a sense of Manchester and the north in the late 1970s and make fascinating reading.

There was a lot of the dry humour I'd expected, and Hooky doesn't hold back with his opinions which makes it feel as though he's sharing his secrets directly with the reader. The stories of Joy Division on the road and in the studio were interesting, and the recollections of individual performances were entertaining and evocative, but the way he writes about the dynamic within the band creates the tension that made this a compulsive (and at times draining) read.

This volume of Peter Hook's memoir was always going to be very much about Ian Curtis and I found myself waiting uncomfortably for the section I knew was coming - Ian's death. I liked how Hooky went to great pains to paint the Ian Curtis he knew - someone who was one of the lads, and at times downright crude. Everyone knows about the epilepsy, the affair, the suicide, the artsy Ian... the way he's been frozen in time by the fans and the media. Hearing what he was actually like from bandmate makes him more 3D somehow, less of a caricature.

I'm definitely going to read the New Order book very soon and imagine that'll be equally as gripping (if not moreso to me personally as that's the music I prefer).

 
 
The Unmumsy Mum - Sarah Turner
 

I'm not sure if part of the reason this didn't speak to me as much as it has some of my friends is because I'm well past the baby stage.

There were definitely scenes from their family life I could relate to, and I did find myself giggling along at the comments about the challenges of parenthood, but personally I feel the short, sharp blog posts have more of an impact than a full-length book.
          
 
 
This Beats Perfect - Rebecca Denton
 

Amelie doesn't like boybands. She'd rather be listening to her diverse collection of original vinyl. However, because of her dad's job in the music industry, she finds herself surrounded by the biggest pop band of the moment 'The Keep'.

This is a book I'd been really looking forward to, and it was a quick YA read. The plot wasn't complex, but didn't need to be as it was still very readable.

My main issue was that I didn't always like Amelie and her ways. Yes, she is a teenager, but she came across as a bit brattish at times. However, I really liked the character Maxx and his motivations and story were very believable.

I'd have loved this book in my teens and I'm sure many fangirls will be hooked by this story of romance, the music industry and being true to yourself.


Why Pamper Life's Complexities? - Essays on The Smiths - Ed. Sean Campbell and Colin Coulter

Interesting collection of essays relating to The Smiths and their place in society, politics and musical history.

Some essays were more interesting to me than others, with particular praise going to Joseph Brooker's ' Has the World Changed or Have I Changed?- The Smiths and the Challenge of Thatcherism', Cecelia Mello's 'I Don't Owe You Anything - The Smiths and kitchen-sink cinema' and particularly Karl Maton's 'Last Night We Dreamt that Somebody Loved Us - Smiths fans (and me) in the late 1980s'. This is partly due to the content relating to areas that appeal to my own personal interest, but also because I felt they were most accessible and original.

One area which could have been stronger for me was a wider use of sources - many essays referred to the same key interviews and lyrics which made this book repetitive at times when read as a collection.
  






Friday, 3 February 2017

What I Read... January 2017

I completed six books in January 2017, and they were all fantastic.  Here are my thoughts...
 

The Legacy of Lucy Harte - Emma Heatherington

I loved this story! Maggie, the recipient of a donor heart, knows that she's not making the most of her life. A run-of-the-mill job, a brother she doesn't talk to, a fondness for drinking more than she really should...None of it is enough any more. Maggie's knows she's lost all sense of herself, but it's only when she makes contact with the family of Lucy Harte, the girl whose heart she was gifted seventeen years ago, that she truly realised how little living she's actually been doing.

It was an absolute pleasure to follow Maggie on her journey, and Emma Heatherington has done a brilliant job in balancing a serious (and at times heavy) plot with witty one-liners. The Irish flavour will appeal to fans of Marian Keyes and there's overseas travel for those readers with wanderlust. There's a hint of romance, but this is as much a love story between Maggie and Lucy as it is between her and the potential partners.

If you're looking for a January read which will inspire you to live for the moment, The Legacy of Lucy Harte could be it.



Under Rose-Tainted Skies - Louise Gornall

Although I am not agoraphobic, Under Rose-Tainted Skies brought back painful memories of my own darkest moments. I found Norah's story so easy to relate to, and I'm sure many readers who have experience of depression, anxiety or other mental health issues will recognise the awful surge of panic Norah experiences in what she feels should be 'normal' situations.

Louise Gornall's book is so very necessary as well as being beautifully written; and it's wonderful to see such an honest portrayal of a character with agoraphobia hitting the shelves (especially from an #ownvoices author). I can see why so many people have raved about this book and predict it'll be an enormous success across the water now it's been published in America.



You Know Me Well - Nina LaCour and David Levithan

Kate and Mark have been sitting next to each other in class for a whole year, but until they meet in a bar at the start of San Francisco's Pride they barely know each other.

What follows is a week-long adventure of love and friendship set against the glorious backdrop of the beautiful city of San Francisco.

It's fantastic to see a YA book with a whole cast of LGBT characters, but more than that the high hopes I had for the book were met. The plot isn't complex, but it doesn't need to be. This is the epitome of a character driven novel, and from the moment I finished the book I was left longing to know what was in store for Kate, Mark, Violet, Ryan and the rest of the gang. I really, really hope we'll get to see more of them in the future.



Radio Silence - Alice Oseman

Frances is a fan of the Universe City podcast. In fact, some might say she's more than a fan. She used the podcast as inspiration for her artwork, the one thing she has besides her A levels.

When Universe City's creator reaches out to her via the internet, Frances is shocked to discover the person behind her favourite podcast lives in close proximity.

This is a book about secrets, fandom, societal expectations and friendships. I loved the diverse, believable characters, the plot and most of all the beautiful writing. Alice Oseman - this is wonderful. Thank you.  


Saturday, 3pm - Daniel Gray

A slender volume of fifty vignettes examining the everyday pleasures of life as a football fan.

Beautiful, heart-felt prose evokes a sense of nostalgia for a by-gone era whilst reminding the reader of the simple delights not yet erradicated from the modern game. From club shops to floodlights to the excitement at passing a team bus on the motorway, Daniel Gray's book is as much about society, sociology and history as it is about football.

Saturday, 3pm is a joy to read.                  


Set The Boy Free - Johnny Marr

Read my review here.

What have you read this year so far?

Monday, 23 January 2017

Set the Boy Free - Johnny Marr


I've been waiting a long time for this book.  You can read my 'Hooray!  Johnny's writing an autobiography!' post here.



I love Johnny Marr.

His life story proves that the heady combination of hard work and natural talent pays off.  Set the Boy Free follows Johnny from humble beginnings on inner-city Manchester estates to global fame and acclaim.  It's partly a 'rise of the underdog' tale, but it's also a love story between Marr and music.  As a creative person myself, I couldn't help but be inspired by his drive, his ambition, his self-belief, and also his ability to do things his own way.

I love Johnny Marr.

His total commitment to guitar and continual desire to bettering his playing, writing and producing is obvious through his musical catalogue, and although I'm a huge fan of The Smiths, there is so much more to Johnny Marr's career.  I read a review that complained there was too much music lingo in this book.  Erm ... hello? This is Johnny Fuckin Marr, a man who's dedicated his whole life to music. What did you expect?!

I love Johnny Marr.

His style and the influences he has drawn on in terms of clothes and image fascinate me.  From roll-necks and beaded necklaces to well-chosen knitwear, his style has evolved yet never deviated from something that is totally 'Johnny Marr'. There's something comforting in that.   Familiar.  And the way Johnny talks about clothes and style in the book is highly evocative.

I love Johnny Marr.

He comes across as very introspective and self-aware, constantly reassessing what he wants from not only his career, but also other areas of his life.  Reading Set the Boy Free, particularly the sections about Johnny's lifestyle change to a tee-total, marathon-running vegan, has encouraged me to think about the life I want for myself. 

I love Johnny Marr. 

I've always been fascinated by his relationship with wife Angie.  They are a rarity - a couple who met young, knew they wanted to be together and still are over thirty years on.  I loved the chance to learn more about their relationship, although the romantic in me would have liked to have more of this and also his relationship with Nile and Sonny covered in the book.

I love Johnny Marr.

I love Johnny Marr's autobiography.  It's insightful and easy to read and although I'd heard a lot of the stories before, it was nice to have a chronological version of events from Johnny's viewpoint. 

I love Johnny Marr.

I love Johnny Marr.

And did I mention I love Johnny Marr?!