Review// Utopia Avenue by David Mitchell

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Author: David Mitchell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: July 14, 2020
Book Length: 608 pages 
Publisher: Sceptre
Review: 3/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Utopia Avenue are the strangest British band you’ve never heard of. Emerging from London’s psychedelic scene in 1967 and fronted by folksinger Elf Holloway, guitar demigod Jasper de Zoet and blues bassist Dean Moss, Utopia Avenue released only two LPs during its brief and blazing journey from the clubs of Soho and draughty ballrooms to Top of the Pops and the cusp of chart success, to glory in Amsterdam, prison in Rome and a fateful American fortnight in the autumn of 1968.

David Mitchell’s new novel tells the unexpurgated story of Utopia Avenue; of riots in the streets and revolutions in the head; of drugs, thugs, madness, love, sex, death, art; of the families we choose and the ones we don’t; of fame’s Faustian pact and stardom’s wobbly ladder. Can we change the world in turbulent times, or does the world change us? Utopia means ‘nowhere’ but could a shinier world be within grasp, if only we had a map?

My Review:

I really enjoyed this book overall; give me a historical fiction about music and I’m always going to be eager to read it.

The author really made me feel as though Dean, Elf, Griff, and Jasper were actual icons in the 60s, and along with all the real celebrity cameos it set the scenes well. However, sometimes, I have to admit that it didn’t seem believable that they would run into that many big names so casually. I don’t know what the music scene was like back then from my own knowledge, so I could be wrong, but the cameos felt a bit too in your face at times. I think the book got off to a really strong and promising start; I especially liked the way the author wrote all the flashbacks, and as the backstories of the main characters were revealed, I began to enjoy the book more and more.

Despite that though, there were a few things I didn’t particularly enjoy. For starters, Jasper’s backstory with the Knock Knock felt too long winded – I began to get a bit annoyed by it, and I didn’t like the magical direction it took because I didn’t think it suited the book at all. I wish Griff got more of a backstory too, because after 600 pages, I still feel like I barely know his character, despite him being one of the main ones. The biggest disappointment for me though was that I really did not enjoy how the book ended. I could tell that so much thought and work went in to writing the beginning and middle parts, but the ending felt unsatisfactory and kind of like a cop out. I do appreciate that it wasn’t predictable, but I don’t think it had a satisfying ending, and it did not leave me longing for the characters and story long after I put it down.

Even though I personally wasn’t a fan of how it ended, I would still recommend this book if you like historical fiction about music and bands. It was well written overall and kept me engaged and eager to see where the story was going to go.

– Catherine

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Review// The Collector by John Fowles

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Author: John Fowles
Series: Standalone
Genre: Classic
Release Date: May 1963
Book Length: 283 pages 
Publisher: Vintage
Review: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Withdrawn, uneducated and unloved, Frederick collects butterflies and takes photographs. He is obsessed with a beautiful stranger, the art student Miranda. When he wins the pools he buys a remote Sussex house and calmly abducts Miranda, believing she will grow to love him in time.

My Review:

I went into this expecting a thrilling, twisted, gripping story, because that’s what the synopsis made me believe would come of it, but I guess I’m an outlier with this one because despite the book having a pretty high rating overall, it kind of flat-lined for me.

Fredrick is an entomologist – a butterfly collector. He has been watching and following a beautiful young woman by the name of Miranda around town; he fantasizes and dreams about her, and about one day making her his. That day soon comes, as he wins a large sum of money from a football pool and buys a large house with a cellar in a remote area in order to abduct and keep Miranda. The first and last parts of the book are Fredrick’s account of what happened, and the middle is Miranda’s, taken from the diary she kept while being held in the cellar.

The idea of the plot intrigued me more than the execution of it. Though the climax of the book is pretty obvious, it felt so anticlimactic, partially because I knew it was coming from the beginning, and partially because the book just felt that stale. I wanted so badly to care about Miranda, and maybe my rating would have been higher if I did, but most of the time she didn’t even feel like a believable person with real feelings. In most of her diary entries, she would go on and on about an unrequited love for a professor twice her age, and honestly I just did not care for it.

I do feel like I may be missing something here based on the general consensus that other people seem to have about this book, but unfortunately for me personally, it fell short of my expectations.

– Catherine

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Review// The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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Author: Angie Thomas
Series: The Hate U Give #1
Genre: Young Adult
Release Date: February 28, 2017
Book Length: 444 pages 
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Review: 5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.

My Review:

If you are going to read one book this entire year, please let it be this one.

This was a very powerful, emotional, and important story that I think everyone needs to read. This book definitely opened my eyes to so many of the injustices faced by the Black community, as well as gave me a new perspective on how these injustices affect them. As someone who really enjoys books with believable characters, I was really impressed with how real the characters felt; from the second chapter I was already getting teary, even though I barely knew them yet, and I think that says a lot. Starr went through so much in this book, and her bravery and determination to stand up for what was right was inspiring.

This is not only one of the best books I’ve ever read, but also the best audiobook I’ve ever experienced, and I can not recommend it enough.

If you want to educate yourself and read an amazing story, READ THIS BOOK.

– Catherine

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Review// Captive Prince by C.S. Pascat

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Author: C.S. Pascat
Series: Captive Prince #1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: February 2, 2013
Book Length: 270 pages 
Publisher: Berkley
Review: 2/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

My Review:

Me, when I found out that this book is supposed to be a slow burn romance:

Oh man, I mean, it was definitely slow, so they got that part down. It just felt like I was waiting forever for something to happen between the two main characters that quite honestly never did. Not to mention, neither of the two were particularly likable or interesting to me, so even if it had happened, I’m not sure I would have cared.

If I really think about it, I couldn’t even really tell you what the plot was – all I know is that the main thing that I can’t shake about this is that there was so much rape, sexual abuse, and paedophilia that I did not anticipate going into it as I knew nothing about the book before reading. There was one character, Nicaise, who is 13 years old but sexualized so much, it made me uncomfortable. The way he’s described is very adult-like, so you almost dismiss it, but then you remember he is a child and it all just feels gross. In addition, although I appreciate all the world building and a lot of it was great, at times the description was so dense and repetitive that it was hard to follow.

The book has very mixed reviews, and personally, it wasn’t for me, but if you’re into fantasy and suuuuper slow burn romances, I’d say don’t knock it till you try it – I have a feeling the next book in the series might even be better.

– Catherine

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Review// Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: An Introvert’s Year of Living Dangerously by Jessica Pan

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Author: Jessica Pan
Series: Standalone
Genre: Non Fiction
Release Date: May 28, 2019
Book Length: 368 pages 
Publisher: DoubleDay
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

What would happen if a shy introvert lived like a gregarious extrovert for one year? If she knowingly and willingly put herself in perilous social situations that she’d normally avoid at all costs? Jessica Pan is going to find out.

When she found herself jobless and friendless, sitting in the familiar Jess-shaped crease on her sofa, she couldn’t help but wonder what life might have looked like if she had been a little more open to new experiences and new people, a little less attached to going home instead of going to the pub.

So, she made a vow: to push herself to live the life of an extrovert for a year. She wrote a list: improv, a solo holiday and… talking to strangers on the tube. She regretted it instantly.

Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come follows Jess’s hilarious and painful year of misadventures in extroverting, reporting back from the frontlines for all the introverts out there.

But is life actually better or easier for the extroverts? Or is it the nightmare Jess always thought it would be?

My Review:

As an introvert myself, this was super inspiring to me. I love the way Jessica Pan writes, and I really enjoyed the adventure this book took me on through her year of extroverting.

Some of the things she did, like stand up comedy, I have to say sound absolutely horrifying to me, even after having read that she did it and survived – even making some new friends along the way. I liked how she didn’t try to sugar coat anything – when she failed, or something embarrassing happened to her, she still included it as part of the story (and rightfully so). This isn’t supposed to be a book about how she “cured” her introversion, rather, it is a book about how even introverts can enjoy the thrill that comes from putting themselves out there and making new friends, networking, and trying new things.

This was an informative, fun, interesting book that made me want to be more open to new experiences, and not let introversion or shyness get in the way.

-Catherine

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