Zoella Book Club September 2021: Reviewing Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
Keep reading to see how the team rated the latest masterpiece from one of the greatest contemporary novelists of our time.
Bookworms everywhere be buzzing because Sally Rooney is back with a truly readable bang.
It’s Rooney’s first outing since she became a global literary phenomenon with Normal People (the greatest love story of all time IMO) and Conversations with Friends, and she’ll be excused for keeping us hanging because her latest work is just as chef’s kiss as her last best-selling tomes.
In the most anticipated new release of 2021, Beautiful World, Where Are You explores the lives of four friends in Dublin.
Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a distribution warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend Eileen is getting over a break-up, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.
Alice, Felix, Eileen and Simon are still young—but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?
Keep reading to see how the team rated the latest masterpiece from one of the greatest contemporary novelists of our time.
I was a huge lover of the Normal People TV series (who wasn’t though) but I actually hadn’t read any of Sally Rooney’s work up until now. I always heard interesting reviews, people would say she’s a different kind of author, stating facts, sometimes a bit removed from the story, so I was intrigued to see what that meant and why she was so popular.
I chose to listen to BWWAY on audible which was lovely as you get the beautiful soft Irish accent blessing your ears! It’s narrated by Aoife McMahon who does a wonderful job at separating the voices for each of the four main characters, it really helped me visualise and understand the plot. For the first couple of chapters, I couldn’t stop picturing Daisy Edgar-Jones and Paul Mescal as every bloody character but it didn’t take long for new faces to form and have me falling in love with each of them in different ways.
The way Sally writes descriptions is so interesting, they’re made up of lots of short factual statements without much metaphor but somehow they very quickly fill your mind with a specific picture. It’s such a simple technique you almost start thinking you could write a book yourself, but that’s the beauty of genius: making something very difficult look easy! Sally Rooney is the absolute master of dialogue, and I could listen to her characters have conversations all day long, even when I’m chomping at the bit for them to tell each other how they really feel – which is something that comes up quite a lot in BWWAY.
The plot is more of a snapshot into 4 people’s lives, rather than a story with a beginning middle and end, which I believe is common in Sally’s work and it’s absolutely fine by me, I ended the book feeling privileged to have been able to peek into their lives, and wish them all the best for the future, however fictional that is!
Rating out of 5: 5/5
Would you recommend? Absolutely, it’s another HIT
“What’s it like, is it good?!” a woman bellowed over to me and my glass of wine as I sat immersed in the world of Sally Rooney’s brain at 4pm on a Friday afternoon. “I can’t put it down. I mean, it’s Sally Rooney!”
I then walked round the corner to see the familiar bright blue cover spread in the eager palms of another. It’s a fact, Rooney is the very best kind of millennial catnip. Maybe it’s because we know that whatever story she commits to the page, it’s guaranteed to get us ruminating about life in a way we can’t run away from.
No one does it like Rooney and BWWAY is further evidence of that. In what is perhaps her most philosophical and brooding novel yet, it asks pertinent questions, both big and small about what it means to be a mere visitor on planet earth. Small in scope, the story follows four characters as they muddle their way through their late 20s/early 30s looking for the beauty in a rather hopeless world but realising that whatever horrors unfold, be it the climate crisis or capitalism, love, sex and relationships are forever the key pillars of our existence.
Admittedly, the political rants between Eileen and Alice were often lost on me but it was the people that captured my attention, as is often the case with Rooney’s books. There’s a scene in a church when Simon traces Eileen’s knuckles during mass and it’s this quiet choreographed intimacy coupled with her trademark detached narrative that sets her writing apart IMO. The tension between the two is pure poetry.
The queen of dialogue does it again (sans speech marks this time) and I think I’m going to say it’s my second favourite read of the year so far, hot on the heels of Claire Fuller’s Unsettled Ground.
Rooney enthusiasts won’t be disappointed… and the Rooney sceptics? Well, they’ll need to hurry up and get a grip now won’t they!
Rating out of 5: 5/5
Would you recommend? Breaks into chants of “Rooney, Rooney, Rooney!”
I haven’t actually read any of Sally Rooney’s work until now (shameful, I know). However, of course, like the rest of the UK, I watched Normal People and adored every minute of that series. I should have read Normal People, but I’ve always found it difficult reading something I know the plot and ending too, something I should work on maybe seems like an attention span issue ha!
I switch between reading books, to using audible, this time I went with audible and really enjoyed the narration of this book by Aoife McMahon and her beautiful Irish accent, which of course gave me Normal People vibes too.
Beautiful World, Where Are You was another lovely novel written by Rooney, focusing on the lives of a group of young adults, navigating relationships and adult life in general. I really enjoyed learning about the friendship between Eileen and Alice, as they argue and debate topics like capitalism, socialism, consumerism, religion and more. I feel like this is very current conversations many people have.
Of course in Rooney style there were some steamy scenes, nothing to erotic though. I guess my only faults is as the same as Normal People, it’s a story which has no real ending, which is common for Rooney but I do enjoy a real juicy plot and ending in a novel. I also found that the characters were quite progressive in some aspects, but in other areas not so much, Felix for example and his behaviour, I get having a character like that, buuuuut there’s no outrage to his behaviour.
All in all I’d recommend this book, especially if you are a fan of Rooney’s work!
Zoella Book Club August 2021 Reviewing Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi
Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply raw, compassionate and intimate novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama, ravaged by addiction, depression and grief.
Trigger warning: grief, race, addiction
They say don’t judge a book by its cover but in the case of Transcendent Kingdom judge away because the story it contains is even more captivating than its Instagramable pink and green jacket.
Transcendent Kingdom is a deeply raw, compassionate and intimate novel about a Ghanaian family in Alabama, ravaged by addiction, depression and grief. Yeah, possibly steer clear if you’re PMSing or on a fragile hangover because the tears will be on tap.
For anyone familiar with Gyasi’s award-winning debut Homegoing, this novel is the opposite in both scope and feel. With a laser-like focus on its characters, the author dissects grief with a deft touch, peeling back the layers of human suffering with unsentimental precision.
The narrator, Gifty, is a 28-year-old Ghanaian-American neuroscientist studying reward-seeking behaviour in mice and the neural circuits of depression and addiction. If that went right over your head, fear not. This book belongs entirely to Gifty and her family story, as she looks to science for the answers she needs to make sense of the tragic loss of her brother Nana and her mother’s debilitating grief.
It is nothing short of a masterpiece and a work of whispered beauty and for that, Yaa Gyasi deserves to take the crown for the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2021. Best of luck!
Keep scrolling to find out what the team thought of this month’s pick…
But first… the blurb:
As a child Gifty would ask her parents to tell the story of their journey from Ghana to Alabama, seeking escape in myths of heroism and romance. When her father and brother succumb to the hard reality of immigrant life in the American South, their family of four becomes two – and the life Gifty dreamed of slips away.
Years later, desperate to understand the opioid addiction that destroyed her brother’s life, she turns to science for answers. But when her mother comes to stay, Gifty soon learns that the roots of their tangled traumas reach farther than she ever thought. Tracing her family’s story through continents and generations will take her deep into the dark heart of modern America.
Find the team’s reviews in the gallery below >
Well, that’s me off to read anything else by Yaa Gyasi! If it hadn’t of been for social plans getting in the way of my reading schedule (how dare my friends want to have fun without books), I would have finished this in one sitting. I don’t know what I was expecting from the blurb, but Gyasi definitely exceeded all my expectations. Transcendent Kingdom is told from Gifty’s perspective, a 28-year-old Neuroscientist who turns to science to try and understand why her brother died. From science, religion, trauma, grief, racism and the complex mother-daughter relationships, Gyasi tackles some hard-hitting themes but moves through the range of each emotion effortlessly. It’s a slow and quiet build that focuses entirely on familial suffering and the quest for meaning but I think that’s what makes it such a tender, intimate and ruminative read.
Rating out of 5: 4/5 Would you recommend? 100% especially if you love character-driven stories!
Written from the perspective of Gifty, a young black woman who works in clinical research, Transcendent Kingdom reads like a memoir and felt incredibly real and raw- at times not like a work of fiction at all! The subject matter and themes the book covers are heavy and complex (drugs, religion, faith) but the message of hope and persevere was something I felt added warmth and beautiful sentiment that left a lasting impact. The pace of the book felt perfect and was enough to keep me intrigued and interested whilst also not rushing through the, at times, delicate subject matter- I was v sad to reach the end of the book when it came. Transcendent Kingdom surpassed my expectations and had me hooked from the offset.
I haven’t read Gyasi’s previous novel- Homegoing- but after finishing TK I am itching to get down to Waterstones and pick it up because it’s clear the hype around her writing abilities, style and execution is certainly worth the hype.
Rating out of 5: 4/5 Would you recommend? Yes!
Transcendent Kingdom is just one of those books that is so beautifully written you start to look at life differently and feel it changing your outlook with every word. It’s been quite a while since I’ve sobbed reading a book but this TOOK me there, in the best way possible. Yaa Gyasi gorgeously weaves characters with narrative to create something truly transcendent (I know, I know, it’s just the perfect word). Having been born and raised in the UK, I’m privileged to have not had the negative effects that immigration can sometimes come with, people assume you move away and suddenly your life is supposed to be better but so much is left behind. The book touches on so many intense topics like faith, religion, mental health struggles, grief, and racism, each one opens your mind further and gives such an interesting perspective. If you’re looking for a read that will really change and stay with you then definitely pick up Transcendent Kingdom, and don’t let the ‘heaviness’ put you off!
Rating out of 5: 5/5 Would you recommend? Definitely, for a deep read
Transcendent Kingdom was a beautifully written book, it flowed effortlessly between the present and the past, which was done incredibly well as sometimes that can be hard to keep up with! Following Gifty who is studying for her PHD researching mice and drug addiction, you really become invested in her present and eager to know more about her past and what directed her on the path she’s on today. This book covers a lot of hard-hitting themes like addiction, depression, racism, faith and religion; I found myself learning from this book, feeling emotionally connected to Gifty and the issues she was facing too. This book almost doesn’t feel fictional at times, which is something I really enjoyed when reading.
I must admit I got a bit lost in the science aspect of it all at times, I’d say lack of understanding from my part (wasn’t my best subject at school lol), however the reasons she is doing this work is admirable to say the least and still very much an important part of the book. If you like a very character driven book, you will love this!
Rating out of 5: 4/5 Would you recommend?: yes!
Purchase Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi through the Bookshop.org here and enjoy 10% off your first order with the code ZOELLA10 at checkout, valid until September 30 2021. All sales support independent bookshops across the UK. Select a bookshop from the map before browsing so your chosen bookseller will receive the direct benefit of the sale. Thank you for supporting independent bookshops!
For this month's Book Club, we're reviewing Kiley Reid's debut novel, 'Such A Fun Age'. Dubbed the most provocative page-turner of 2020, we can't wait to get stuck in!
When Emira is apprehended at a supermarket for ‘kidnapping’ the white child she’s actually babysitting, it sets off an explosive chain of events. Her employer Alix, a feminist blogger with the best of intentions, resolves to make things right.
But Emira herself is aimless, broke and wary of Alix’s desire to help. When a surprising connection emerges between the two women, it sends them on a crash course that will upend everything they think they know – about themselves, each other, and the messy dynamics of privilege.
January Book Club 2020: My Sister The Serial Killer
We've inhaled the pages of Oyinkan Braithwaite's debut novel, 'My Sister The Serial Killer' and with a title like that, you can see why!
When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This will be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first.
Until that is, Ayoola starts dating the fit doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…
Find out if this crime thriller had us on the edge of our seats…
After hearing so many great things about this book, I was pumped to get stuck in. I loved that Oyinkan Braithwaite chose to centre the plot on two sisters with a sinister secret and despite the titillating name, it’s less interested in becoming the crime thriller of the decade. The opening chapters set it up to be a suspenseful and disturbing read but perhaps that would be all too predictable, instead Braithwaite hones in on sibling rivalry, loyalty, abuse and sexism. I don’t think it’s for everyone and personally, I prefer a thriller with a BIG old sting but if you love fast-paced chapters, dry sardonic humour with a bit of blood thrown in for good measure, pick it up!
Would you recommend? Yes
Would you read again? No
I actually read this last year after seeing so many rave reviews. I love me a thriller so opened the first page with excitement and bated breath expecting something really gritty with added humour. Although I DID enjoy this book, I wanted a little more. I think my imagination and love of horror and crime documentaries meant my thought process always went that little bit extra than the actual storyline and it fell a little flat for me. I did however love the dark humour, the characters, the overall plot and the fact that the story is very fast paced, I prefer when a book gets straight to the point. I also like that Oyinkan Braithwaite makes us question certain topics like social media and sisterhood. How far would you go for your sibling? Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it fell a little flat for me in the “thriller” sense and wanted something a little more twisted and dark but If you prefer your crime reads to be a little less scary, then you will LOVE THIS.
Would you recommend? Yes
Would you read again? Yes
I really enjoyed how the story of Korede and her sister was told, it pulls you in with these small insights into their daily life and how Ayoola’s actions have almost become the norm. It’s a really interesting look at relationships and the complexities of what is morally right and how much you can overlook because of family ties. Whilst the ending may not be the crescendo most would hope for, I think it’s expected and still a fitting end to this story.
Would you recommend? Yes
Would you read it again? No
I really enjoyed reading this book, I found I got through it quickly and wanted to keep picking it up which is always a sign of a good book. This book is a snapshot in time, so if you are someone who likes a book with a firm ‘beginning, middle and end’, you might not be the biggest fan of this one. I however really enjoyed the style of writing, after reading you are left wanting to know more and can only imagine what ‘could have’ happened. The book made me really feel for both Korede and her sister, that their childhood traumas have really effected them in later life, which showed why their bond was so unbreakable. I do wish the ending had a bit more oomph to it, but I guess again it goes back to the sisterly bond they have, Korede was always going to stick by her sister.
Would you recommend? Deffo
Would you read it again? Potentially
I really enjoyed this book and found it super easy to get into. I was intrigued by the storyline from the get-go so it was definitely a page turner in that sense, and the fact it was relatively short meant it wasn’t an overwhelming one to pick up on your lunch break like some more hefty novels.
I really enjoyed that the story was set in Lagos and it’s prompted me to look for more books that are set outside of the UK or USA, which seems to be the theme of my other recent reads. I enjoyed hearing the story from the protagonist’s perspective but found she was one of the only likeable characters which did make for a frustrating read. The ending could definitely have been more dramatic and continued to share the aftermath of the events rather than finishing the way it did, but equally I understand the writers decision to close the story in that way as it confirmed the suspicions of the reader and characters unwillingness to change. Overall it was an enjoyable read but not one I’d pick back up again in a hurry!
Would you recommend? Yes
Would you read again? No
I really enjoyed the way this was written, I liked the short chapters pushing the narrative forward quickly, there was also some really lovely descriptive parts without them dominating the book. I LOVED picturing modern Lagos with YouTube tutorials and Instagram influencers especially juxtaposed with the crime and corruption that is still so rife there. I felt sorry for Korede and really related to her having such a beautiful sister with a fab body, except my sister is amazing and also doesn’t kill people (Love you April!) My heart always aches for characters who don’t really have anyone to confide in and talk to, I wish she would have found more of a life long friend in Mutar. I agree with the others on the ending but I also think her actions were realistic, she was in too deep! I don’t think Korede truly understood quite how manipulative and dangerous her sister was as it seemed like she had started to believe her lies by the end.
Would you recommend? Yes, please read it!
Would you read again? I listened to this one but I could see myself picking it up to read on a holiday
This book is chopped up into tiny bite sized chapters that flip between the past and present day lives of two sisters who live in Lagos, Nigeria. With each childhood flash-back you start to understand that the violence and oppression they endured from their father was part of normal everyday life for them growing up. With that comes greater context into their personalities, behaviours and in particular their relationships with men as adult women. Obvious serial killer storyline aside, the resounding theme of the book that stood out most to me is that the sisters, in their own way, through thick and thin, are always there for each other. It’s an incredibly quick read and it’s probably not a book I would have picked up myself so it was a nice change of pace from my usual go to. Would recommend.
I honestly couldn’t tell you if I enjoyed this book or not, I’m so conflicted. I loved that the two main protagonists are women and that it’s set in Nigeria. I thought Oyinkan Braithwaite did a great job of setting the scene and I got very engrossed quickly. But as soon as I had painted a vivid picture in my head, the chapter would end. Frustrating! I also would have loved to know more about the first murders. About 2/3 of the way in I got in the flow and the short chapters didn’t bother me but then the ending was so anticlimactic. Surely there has to be a second book?!
A great book for someone that’s not an avid reader or has a short attention span but if you love getting stuck in, this might not be the one for you.
Would you recommend? Unsure (depends on who to)
Would I read again? No
Did you read along with us? We’d love to hear what you made of it!
2019 was the year I told myself I would read more. Not just say I will read more, but ACTUALLY read more. Here is a run down of the 15 books I read last year, each with a rating out of 5...
I was that kid that looked forward to school holidays so I could read books back to back without any interruption
2019 was the year I told myself I would read more. Not just say I will read more, but ACTUALLY read more. I’ve always loved being submerged in a good book. I was that kid that looked forward to school holidays so I could read books back to back without any interruption. This year I finished 15 books, started the Zoella Book Club and I also bought myself a Kindle which helped me read a lot quicker. I was a little hesitant to purchase a kindle as I do love to flip the pages and have that satisfaction of finishing it, but having so many books in one place, being able to slip it in my bag for reading on the go and being able to hold it above my face in bed was life changing. Don’t even get me started on the fact you can adjust the font size, see the percentage of how much you’ve read as you go and adjust brightness too, basically…the kindle has changed my life. I actually read most of these on the kindle, but because of the office book club, I had lot’s of physical copies to feature in this photo! There really was no excuse not to read this year, so here is a mini run down of the books I read, and what I thought of them!
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman
“Meet Eleanor Oliphant: she struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding unnecessary human contact, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen, the three rescue one another from the lives of isolation that they had been living. Ultimately, it is Raymond’s big heart that will help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one. If she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all”
This was the first book I read this year and it had been one I started at the end of 2018 and I was really dragging my heels about getting stuck into it. It’s quite a slow starting story, so it took me a while but once I was in, I was invested! Eleanor is the sort of character you really root for, and also so very different from any character I’ve read before. It’s a very heart warming story following Eleanor as she does things a little out of her comfort zone and in doing so, meeting new people and finding new lease of life. I read this book so long ago that I’m struggling to say anything else but I do remember being a little disappointed by the ending.
My Sister The Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite
“When Korede’s dinner is interrupted one night by a distress call from her sister, Ayoola, she knows what’s expected of her: bleach, rubber gloves, nerves of steel and a strong stomach. This’ll be the third boyfriend Ayoola’s dispatched in, quote, self-defence and the third mess that her lethal little sibling has left Korede to clear away. She should probably go to the police for the good of the menfolk of Nigeria, but she loves her sister and, as they say, family always comes first. Until, that is, Ayoola starts dating the doctor where Korede works as a nurse. Korede’s long been in love with him, and isn’t prepared to see him wind up with a knife in his back: but to save one would mean sacrificing the other…”
If you prefer your crime reads to be a little less scary, then you will LOVE THIS
I read this at the beginning of the year after seeing so many rave reviews. I love me a thriller so opened the first page with excitement and bated breath expecting something really gritty with added humour. Although I DID enjoy this book, I wanted a little more. I think my imagination and love of horror and crime documentaries meant my thought process always went that little bit extra than the actual storyline and it fell a little flat for me. I did however love the dark humour, the characters, the overall plot and the fact that the story is very fast paced, I prefer when a book gets straight to the point. I also like that Oyinkan Braithwaite makes us question certain topics like social media and sisterhood. How far would you go for your sibling? Overall, I did enjoy this book, but it fell a little flat for me in the “thriller” sense and wanted something a little more twisted and dark but If you prefer your crime reads to be a little less scary, then you will LOVE THIS
Normal People – Sally Rooney
“At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal. A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other. Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.”
I feel like Sally Rooney was everywhere in 2019 and everyone had a lot of great things to say about her and her writing style! I bought two of her books, and read normal people first. I really enjoyed the story, covering young love in a seriously realistic way, which at times I wasn’t sure if I liked because I always wanted the opposite to happen, but once I’d finished I decided I loved it, as it was so much more relatable and I ended up feeling more invested in them and their complex relationship.
Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng
“Everyone in Shaker Heights was talking about it that summer: how Isabelle, the last of the Richardson children, had finally gone around the bend and burned the house down.”
“Little Fires Everywhere explores the weight of long-held secrets and the ferocious pull of motherhood-and the danger of believing that planning and following the rules can avert disaster, or heartbreak.”
This book wasn’t the page turner I had anticipated after reading so many amazing reviews and it started out quite slow. The authors descriptions of the town, homes, relationships & characters were superb and I adored her writing style, although I do feel that some of my favourite characters weren’t as focused on and I would have loved a bit more depth to those (Moody for example). I usually prefer quite fast-paced, gripping storylines, and although this one felt a bit more subdued, I can still appreciate its real-ness, honesty and themes throughout, and it felt a bit like being a fly on the wall. I particularly liked the emphasis on mother-daughter relationships! Click here to see what the rest of the team thought!
How Do You Like Me Now? – Holly Bourne
‘Turning thirty is like playing musical chairs. The music stops, and everyone just marries whoever they happen to be sitting on.’
Who the f*ck is Tori Bailey? There’s no doubt that Tori is winning the game of life. A straight-talking, bestselling author, she’s inspired millions of women around the world with her self-help memoir. And she has the perfect relationship to boot. But Tori Bailey has been living a lie.
Holly takes you on a very real journey through a relationship with her main charatcer Tori Bailey and her long term partner Tom, to the point where you feel like you’re experiencing the highs and lows with her. You get a real sense of the struggles and honesty and the personal journey that Tori takes both within herself and her career. There are very poignant and current subjects that Holly puts into the book too, my favourite being the relationship Tori has with her social media and the reality behind her posts and how she views other peoples posts. I hope there is a second book where we get to follow Tori in her next adventure!
Angus, Thongs & Full Frontal Snogging – Louise Rennison
“In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s “Fabbity fab fab!”
in our very first library session as a new tutor group, I whipped it out and was met with horrified gasps at the title. It was as if I’d pulled out 50 shades of grey
Does this book even need an intro or a review? If you’re a woman in your late twenties/early thirties you undoubtedly became very acquainted with Louise Rennison and her series of books back when you were a mere tween, exploring who you were attracted to and scribbling in your diary. I first read this book when I was 11 years old. It was my first read attending secondary school, and in our very first library session as a new tutor group, I whipped it out and was met with horrified gasps at the title. It was as if I’d pulled out 50 shades of grey. I remember my form tutor then pointing it out in front of everyone and me feeling very embarrassed. This book was and is just great! I re-read it as the publishers kindly re-sent me the entire series and I loved every second just as I did aged 11. It’s what got me into writing myself, and also scribbling every thought I had into a diary. One of the first books I wrote, aged 14 (which will never see the light of day) was called “Boys, Bums and The Family From Hell” and it was HUGELY inspired by Louise’s writing and story telling.
Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle – Stuart Turton
“Tonight, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed… again. It is meant to be a celebration but it ends in tragedy. As fireworks explode overhead, Evelyn Hardcastle, the young and beautiful daughter of the house, is killed. But Evelyn will not die just once. Until Aiden – one of the guests summoned to Blackheath for the party – can solve her murder, the day will repeat itself, over and over again. Every time ending with the fateful pistol shot. The only way to break this cycle is to identify the killer. But each time the day begins again, Aiden wakes in the body of a different guest. And someone is determined to prevent him ever escaping Blackheath…”
I didn’t have any expectations before reading this book and hadn’t read any reviews so went in completely blind (which I do think sometimes is the best way). VERY quickly, I was OBSESSED. I read it religiously every evening and any other chance I got, which is quite rare for me. The genre is totally up my street as it’s a murder mystery set in an old mansion where the day is played out 8 different times through 8 different characters to get to the bottom of it. I loved the complexity of Stu’s characters (you really do need to pay attention though as they switch and change throughout the book), the INSANE plot that plays out so perfectly that you’re almost annoyed at yourself that you can’t read quick enough to get to the end. I think this book is pure genius, thanks Stuart Turton! Click here to read what the rest of the Zoella team thought of the book!
Reasons To Stay Alive – Matt Haig
“Like nearly one in five people, Matt Haig suffers from depression. Reasons to Stay Alive is Matt’s inspiring account of how, minute by minute and day by day, he overcame the disease with the help of reading, writing, and the love of his parents and his girlfriend (and now-wife), Andrea. And eventually, he learned to appreciate life all the more for it“
I follow Matt Haig on instagram and love so much of what he posts! I’ve read bits of quite a few of his books over the years, but never sat down to fully read one, so I thought I’d start with Reasons to Stay Alive, in which Matt shares his experience battling with severe anxiety and depression and the journey he goes on in order to triumph and live the life he wants. I absolutely LOVED this book. Matt describes anxiety and depression in such an easy to understand way. I found myself nodding furiously through this and it actually helped me in so many ways. Next on my list is “Notes on a nervous planet”.
The Couple Next Door – Shari Lapena
“Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story. Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years. What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family–a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist“
Basically every ingredient for a book that I’m going to instantly fall in love with
OH HELLO FAST PACED WHO-DONE-IT. Basically every ingredient for a book that I’m going to instantly fall in love with. One of my highest rated books I’d read last year and it sadly wasn’t one we picked for the book club (although I wish we had). I actually only read it because I’d finished the book club pick for that month and wanted something else to move onto before next months book. My Mum was reading it and loving it, and so I was like “okay, I’m going to start that”. Had absolutely no expectation whatsoever but I don’t think I’ve ever got so invested in a storyline as quickly as I did with this. Shari’s writing style is so up my street, fast paced, gets straight to the point and you feel like you’re actually there! Since I love a thriller, this also got a huge tick for me, with suspense, questions, twists and turns throughout! I can’t wait to read another of her books! You have to read this.
Where The Crawdads Sing – Delia Owens
“For years, rumors of the “Marsh Girl” have haunted Barkley Cove, a quiet town on the North Carolina coast. So in late 1969, when handsome Chase Andrews is found dead, the locals immediately suspect Kya Clark, the so-called Marsh Girl. But Kya is not what they say. Sensitive and intelligent, she has survived for years alone in the marsh that she calls home, finding friends in the gulls and lessons in the sand. Then the time comes when she yearns to be touched and loved. When two young men from town become intrigued by her wild beauty, Kya opens herself to a new life–until the unthinkable happens.”
This book has so many amazing reviews so my expectation was high (not always a good thing) and oh my, it did not disappoint. It’s a book that focuses largely on loneliness, fear and love with a sprinkling of utter determination and serious courage. I immediately fell in love with Kya as a character and Delia’s incredible descriptions of the marsh in which she lives and the creatures that she lives amongst really bought the vision of the book to life. She also includes some beautiful poetry which i thoroughly enjoyed reading throughout. Probably one of the most descriptive books i’ve read in a long time which I think, along with the storyline is why I enjoyed it so much. It’s quite an emotional rollercoaster and pulls on your heart strings in places but also has the added drama of the murder mystery thrown in too. (you know I love me a murder). I also really loved the end, i closed the book and felt so content (almost wanted to open it back at page one and start again). Click here to read what the rest of the Zoella team thought of the book!
The Testaments – Margaret Atwood
“Margaret Atwood’s sequel picks up the story more than fifteen years after Offred stepped into the unknown, with the explosive testaments of three female narrators from Gilead. In this brilliant sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale, acclaimed author Margaret Atwood answers the questions that have tantalized readers for decades.”
I became a huge Handmaids Tale fan after being sucked into the tv series around 4 months ago and binge watched the entire thing over about 2 weeks. I found the whole concept both harrowing and so very interesting (and edge-of-your-seat-gripping!) Having not read the original book, I still had a good understanding of it through watching the series (although I can hear you all shouting “YOU SHOULD STILL READ THE FIRST BOOK”, which I will one day) therefore reading “The Testaments” still made complete sense to me and I was able to follow this no problem. I thoroughly enjoyed this read! I loved having three different perspectives of the same thing, all organically tying up along the way. The way in which Margaret is able to express three very different characters made you almost forget she was writing them all. Although somewhat predictable, and you can definitely sense where the storyline is heading by about midway through, I also really enjoyed the ending. It was one of those books I could have easily read in one sitting if i’d had the time, you just want to keep turning the page to find out more! Click here to read what the rest of the Zoella team thought of the book!
Nine Perfect Strangers – Liane Moriarty
“Nine people gather at a remote health resort. Some are here to lose weight, some are here to get a reboot on life, some are here for reasons they can’t even admit to themselves. Amidst all of the luxury and pampering, the mindfulness and meditation, they know these ten days might involve some real work. But none of them could imagine just how challenging the next ten days are going to be“.
I’ve never read anything else by Liane Moriarty but i’m a HUGE fan of the show Big Little Lies (although never read the book) so I was super excited to read this. Set in a wellness retreat in Australia, run by a woman who had a near death experience, nine guests arrive for a break they most certainly won’t forget. I honestly had no idea where this story would go but was instantly drawn into Moriarty’s characters. When I knew she’d be telling the story from the perspective of nine different spa residents and two of the staff, so eleven points of view in total, I was worried i’d get a bit lost, but she did this SO well. I do agree with the others that this did feel a little slow paced at first and as a lover of twists, turns, thrillers and true crime, I thought it would be a little more gritty than it actually turned out to be. I don’t want to give away any spoilers so will leave it as vague as that, but I did feel the ending wasn’t quite how I’d have liked but overall I enjoyed the book and storyline! I like how real and complex the characters were and the overall journey we are taken on as readers to discover through them what really matters. I found Moriarty’s writing style so easy to get lost in and would love to read more of her books. Click here to read reviews from the rest of the team
Our Stop – Laura Jane Williams
“Nadia gets the 7.30 train every morning without fail. Well, except if she oversleeps or wakes up at her friend Emma’s after too much wine. Daniel really does get the 7.30 train every morning, which is easy because he hasn’t been able to sleep properly since his dad died. One morning, Nadia’s eye catches sight of a post in the daily paper: To the cute girl with the coffee stains on her dress. I’m the guy who’s always standing near the doors… Drink sometime? So begins a not-quite-romance of near-misses, true love, and the power of the written word”
I could not put this down. I loved everything about it!
Laura had kindly sent this to me and my eyes were instantly drawn to the gorgeous front cover and the blurb. Since I’d been reading quite heavy literature this was the delightful chick-lit break I needed. I could not put this down. I loved everything about it, the characters, the story, Lauras incredible writing style, scene setting and characters. You know it’s good when you’re excited to get a moment to read it. MORE PLEASE LAURA!
Twas The Night Shift Before Christmas – Adam Kay
“Twas The Nightshift Before Christmas is the hilarious, poignant and entertaining story of the life of a junior doctor at the most challenging time of the year. With twenty-five tales of intriguing, shocking and incredible Christmas incidents, the British public will finally appreciate the sacrifices made and the challenges faced by the unsung heroes of the NHS.”
I had already read and LOVED Adam’s first book “This is going to Hurt”, so I knew exactly what I was in for with this festive edition. It was an easy read-in-one-sitting book and I throughly enjoyed it. Adam writes with so much humour and description that he makes you laugh out loud and shed tears in equal measure with his stories. I personally would have loved for it to have been just a teeny bit longer as it was much shorter than I first anticipated, but that’s only because I think I could read thousands of pages of his diary entries and I just wanted more! Click here to see what the rest of the Zoella team thought!
Becoming – Michelle Obama
“In her memoir, a work of deep reflection and mesmerizing storytelling, Michelle Obama invites readers into her world, chronicling the experiences that have shaped her—from her childhood on the South Side of Chicago to her years as an executive balancing the demands of motherhood and work, to her time spent at the world’s most famous address. With unerring honesty and lively wit, she describes her triumphs and her disappointments, both public and private, telling her full story as she has lived it—in her own words and on her own terms. Warm, wise, and revelatory, Becoming is the deeply personal reckoning of a woman of soul and substance who has steadily defied expectations—and whose story inspires us to do the same.”
Not knowing much about Michelle Obama or the Obama’s in general, it was really insightful learning so much about their background and how they came to be POTUS and FLOTUS and the dynamic of them as a couple. Michelle writes beautifully (kind of hoping she will move into fiction as I can imagine her being so descriptive and her storytelling comes so naturally to her). I’m not hugely into/don’t know too much about American politics so there were definitely points during the book where I felt I had to push myself a little more but overall found it to be really interesting. Michelle is an incredible woman, with a humble background, oodles of knowledge, intelligence and great morals. I finished the book feeling inspired and empowered! Click here to read reviews from the rest of the Zoella team
Have you read any of these? What are your thoughts? I’d also love to know if you have any Zoella Book Club suggestions or any tips for reading more?