Book Review-‘The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice’ by Katarina West

It’s a been a little while since I offered my thoughts on someone else’s writing on here, rather than sharing my own. However, I’m still really enjoying reading-especially now that summer’s arrived and there’s (slightly!) more sun around here in Wales. Sitting on my garden bench whilst lost in a good story is definitely one of life’s little pleasures.

Today, I’m going to be talking about a really lovely summer read-The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice by Katarina West. Katarina kindly sent me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Here’s the blurb:

“Meet Irene Nylander, a frumpy housewife from Finland… and a yo-yo dieter.
She feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, looking after her domineering mother-in-law
and living vicariously through romantic movies.
Meanwhile, in Florence, Mimi Kavanough’s star is rising. She has the body of a
Barbie princess, the iron will of an army sergeant – and Hollywood in her sights.
On her fiftieth birthday, Irene discovers her husband is having an affair.
Devastated, she prays for a way out: she wants to die.
In heaven, a mischievous angel called Aaron hears her prayers.
He decides to make Irene and Mimi swap bodies.
How will the two women cope with their unexpected, and very different,
second lives? And will Aaron’s meddling get him evicted from heaven? What will happen if he has to transform into a human being and live on Earth?”

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What a lovely book cover!

As the blurb suggests, the story centres around two female characters with very different lives and personalities. Both Irene and Mimi are easily likeable, so I quickly found myself getting attached to their stories-as Irene’s revels in the decadence of the celebrity lifestyle whilst Mimi realises that life is very different without money and status.  I particularly warmed to the determined Mimi as she struggled to accept her new existence as a Danish housewife and fought to get her old life back.

In many ways, this is a classic body-swap story; reminiscent of films such as Freaky Friday and The Change-Up. However, it’s made more interesting by the fact that the swap takes place due to the actions of a young angel, Aaron- who has a desire for change and justice that overrides his respect for angel rules and laws. Aaron’s story is interwoven throughout; and, whilst it’s compelling, it complicated the narrative somewhat for me. This might just be due to the fact that I’m not a huge fan of fantasy novels, but as Aaron inhabits an different realm from the other characters I felt that a lot of explaining had to be done to describe the Angel Kingdom in which he exists-which slowed down the pace of the book.

Having said this, I still really enjoyed the novel. It’s well-written and compelling, and the chapters are short enough so that you fit in a quick read during your lunch break. It’s also perfect for this time of year as it offers romance, escapism and plenty of plot-twists!

It’s worth noting that this book is the first edition in the Angel Aid series-which means that there’s plenty more still to come from the talented Katarina West. I’m already looking forward to the next one!

To buy The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice on Amazon, click here.

To find out more about Katarina West, please visit her website.

You can also keep up to date with Katarina on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

 

A Few Thoughts on ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child’

I like to think that I’m the kind of person who doesn’t just jump on a band wagon because everyone else is doing it-but some things are just too good to miss out on! A new Harry Potter story is definitely one of those things, and I’m not ashamed to say that I pre-ordered my copy of the script along with the best of them-which includes you, your entire friendship circle, your dog and (possibly) your Nan. Here’s are my main thoughts, in list form (because who the heck doesn’t love a good list?):

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  1.  I like that we have a script and a play, rather than a book and a film. As a drama graduate and theatre nerd, I’m obviously going to be pleased that our genre is getting recognition from one of the biggest franchises in the world. I’m hoping that the knock-on effect will be that more people will read scripts/go to the theatre (but we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case!).
  2.  The characters are as brilliant as ever. Having Harry, Ron and Hermione’s bants back in my lives is the equivalent of a big cuddle in story form, even if it takes a bit of getting used to them being the responsible adults in this story! Seeing their children as fully fledged characters is also super interesting. My only complaint is that there’s nowhere near enough Neville in this (my fave character forever, jsyk).
  3. This continuation of the story’s really necessary, IMHO. I know some have complained that ‘The Cursed Child’ is an unecessary add-on from the books, but I feel differently. I was never satisfied with the ‘And they all live happily ever after’ ending of ‘Deathly Hallows’, and this story gets to probe the ongoing repercussions and effects of being part of tale of ‘The Boy Who Lived’. Even more interestingly, it looks at the effect that Harry and Draco’s complex history has had on their children; both postively and negatively.
  4. It’s great to have answers to unanswered questions. Will Ron and Hermione stay together forever? What was Dumbledore’s motivation for protecting Harry for all those years? And what’s Harry really afraid of these days? (Spoiler alert: Pigeons.). This play gives us the answers we’ve been yearning for for 9 whole years.
  5. Reading this was a  such a wonderfully nostalgic experience. I was 14 when the final Harry Potter book came out,  and I can still remember the excitement of holding that first edition in my hands after a mad scramble down to the bookshop. It was lovely to experience that all again-and to get another opportunity to re-enter the wonderful wizarding world. Although, as J.K Rowling has said herself:

‘The stories we love best do live in us forever…Hogwarts will always be here to welcome you home.’

Call me cheesy, call me sentimental-but I really am please that that’s true.

What did you think of ‘The Cursed Child’? Let me know in the comments.

Much Love,

H xx

Book Review, Times Two-‘Vinegar Girl’ and ‘According to Yes’

The fact that there is a gentle but relentless drizzle hitting my window right now serves as a reminder that summer has arrived here in Wales. For as long as I can remember, the height of summer here usually means that grey days are slightly brighter than usual, and that we’ll intermittently get a bit of sunshine when we’re lucky! Still, the drizzly days like today have their perks-and one of those is that they’re a great excuse to get snuggly with a good book. I’ve had a good run recently with the ol’ reading, and I’m currently on book number 10 of the year. My target is 25 by the end of the year, so I’m still a way off-but it’s brilliant to be enjoying reading again.

Today, I’m going to be doing a little review of my two most recent reads-‘Vinegar Girl’ by Anne Tyler and ‘According to Yes’ by Dawn French. Both are super easy to read but really engaging too-so they’re perfect for this time of year.

Vinegar Girl is a modern retelling of Taming of the Shrew, and is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series-a collection of contemporary novels based on Shakespeare’s plays by popular writers. Of course, there’s already been plenty of new and updated versions of this play, and none more popular than the fabulous 90s rom-com ’10 things I hate about you’. Whilst I found it hard to get Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles out of my head in some ways, I liked the fact that this was a quirkier version, with older characters (Kate is 29) who have plenty at stake (the European Pyotr, aka Petruchio, needs to marry in order to obtain the right to stay in the US). I found this version of Kate to be pretty believable,  and could understand why she is eventually drawn to the marriage as an escape from her old life. Kate’s father, a nutty professor type, is a bit cartoonish at times, but this is still an enjoyable read which manages to make some interesting comments about the immigration system. I’d definitely recommend for any Shakespeare lovers out there. And, whilst it sounds awfully superficial to say it, the cover is BEAUTIFUL to look at when you just cba to read anymore.

So-onto According to Yes. As this was written by comedienne extraordinaire Dawn French, who’s been writing in some form or another for donkeys year, I was expecting big things. And it delivered-on some levels. Firstly, it had Dawn’s trademark humour stamped all over it-and it added to the enjoyment that I mentally read the whole thing in her voice! Secondly, the characters are brilliant-particularly the central character Rosie, an exuberant Cornish nanny hell-bent on taking on Manhattan. The New York family she cares for are also very believable and likeable, and helped make the book totally absorbing. The plot, however, was a little far-fetched and daft. It starts off well, but then events occur in the middle of the book (which I won’t spoil here!) which make the whole thing read like a soap opera. Luckily, it redeems itself towards the end, with a sweet ending which almost makes you forgive the flamboyancy of it all. And I suppose, if there’s any time when slightly overdramatic plot is acceptable, it’s the summer!

Hope this gives you some new reading recommendations! I’m off to enjoy the rest of this rainy day.

Hope xx

5 Mini Book Reviews

A confession-I’ve been meaning to do this blog post for ages. So long ago, in fact, that I was only on book #2 of 5 when I first had the idea. But I guess life got in the way, and I managed to procrastinate for 3 whole months before I’ve actually managed to put fingers to keyboard. And the book pile of finished books waiting to be reviewed got bigger and bigger!…

From now on, I’m going to try and write book reviews as soon as I’ve finished reading the book in question-but for today I thought I’d catch you up on my favourite books of the year so far. Together, I think they make quite a good little summer book list as they offer plenty of variety- there’s lots of laughs, a few tears and some gorgeous stories. In a vain attempt  to prevent this blog from being a super long and rambly mess though, I’m gonna try and keep the reviews mini. My descriptions should be no longer than a tweet long (140 characters or less). Let’s see if this works….

‘Not That Kind of Girl’ by Lena Dunham

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Description: A collection of autobiographical essays on life and love by Girls creator and feminist extraordinaire Lena Dunham. Relatable beyond belief. (139 characters-just made it!)

Pros: Gutsy and honest-like an American Caitlin Moran. Tackles tough subjects such as sexual assault and depression and still manages to be funny.

Cons: Not quite as good as Girls, but makes you realise that half the script is actually her life.

‘Wild’ by Cheryl Strayed

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Description: A true story of one woman’s journey along the Pacific Crest Trail to overcome grief and addiction. 1,100 miles of healing (and sore feet).

Pros: Super inspiring-a perfect motivator if you’re flagging. Written in a way which is both accessible and beautiful. Made me want to walk more.

Cons: Very few-probably my favourite book so far this year. Although the descriptions of her feet were a bit gross at times.

‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett

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Description: A novel depicting 3 different versions of the lives of Eva and Jim. Full of twists and turns. Made me think about the butterfly effect a lot.

Pros: Super engrossing, and the portrayal of the main characters is excellent. The romance develops over the course of a whole book rather than just at a certain point.

Cons: Reading 3 alternating versions of the same story can be a bit confusing at times. I kept getting minor characters and plots mixed up.

‘I Am Malala’ by Malala Yousafzai

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Description: Internationally famous autobiography of a young Pakistani girl who stood up against the Taliban, and was subsequently shot. Incredibly moving

Pros: She truly opened my eyes to the horrors the Taliban have inflicted in a way that the mainstream media never could. Her spirit is astounding.

Cons: A bit wordy in places, but there is an abridged version if you’re not a huge reader.

‘Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Description: Texan YA focusing on Willowdean, a big girl with a big personality. She falls in love, enters a beauty pageant and battles with self-confidence.

Pros: Easy to read, and full of loveable characters. Dolly Parton features heavily. The themes of body confidence and self worth are relevant and necessary.

Cons: The ending was a little abrupt for my liking (but I won’t spoil it here).

There ya go-that’s 5-in-1 in less than 500 words! Hope these have given you some good summer reading ideas.

Until next time,

H xx