Monday, 31 October 2016

A Street Cat Named Bob - James Bowen

'I invited Bob to jump on my lap, which he did in the blink of an eye. A moment or two later, the conductor appeared. She was a cheerful West Indian lady and smiled at Bob, then me. ‘Is he yours?’ she said, stroking him. ‘I guess he must be,’ I said.'

Confession of the day: I love cats. Cats are amazing and wonderful and I'd be at a loss if something happened to one of our two little fluff balls back in Finland. Cats all the way. So of course, I've been meaning to read perhaps the most famous book written about a cat for the longest time.

A Street Cat Named Bob is about Londoner busker James and his cat Bob, whom he meets on the streets. They become inseparable and set out against the world together. This book is about their first few years together - James starting out as a recovering drug addict busking in the streets for money, Bob as a weak shadow of a cat.

The book isn't sugar-coated; James clearly has no qualms about expressing just how rough life on the streets can be. I was surprised about this, since I was probably more prepared to read about the cat rather than the man. It was welcome, though - I don't suppose one ever knows too much about the hardships other people are forced to go through. I liked learning more about their lives and hearing the whole story.

I suppose for this book, though, it's true what they say about life being stranger than fiction. It gave me lots of happy fluffy feelings and made me really feel like I was connecting with James and Bob (it would be weird to call them 'characters', right?), and I'd say that's a sign of a good job well done.

The writing style is pretty much what you'd expect from an author who's not really an author; it's more of a man telling his story. It's in his own words so I didn't mind that, but it's not to be expected that a book like this would be a masterpiece in a literary sense. It's not very complicated in writing and suffers from some repetition, but it's not an experience-breaking thing, so I'll give this a sound 4/5. I do recommend it if you like cats and find an interest in stuff like this!

I'll be sure to check out The World According to Bob the next time I need my daily dose of cats, since it's kind of like a direct continuation of this book. I'm also so excited about the upcoming movie, by the way! In most scenes, Bob plays himself!! How cool is that? I already convinced my boyfriend to come watch it with me, I'm that excited! Keep you updated on my thoughts afterwards! (I'll be disappointed if it's not dark enough; I have a bad feeling it'll be a bit too much of a feel-good family film.)

'I’d even been approached by an American lady, an agent, who asked me whether I’d thought about writing a book about me and Bob. As if!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Did I Mention I Love You? - Estelle Maskame

‘And so last night I fell asleep with my mind split in two. One half was drowning in guilt, but the other was floating, recklessly in love with the idea of Tyler and the secrets that are hidden within the depth of his being. Because, somehow, I’ve managed to become one of them.’

I originally picked up Did I Mention I Love You? by Estelle Maskame because a friend of mine was gushing online how much she loves these books. And since the whole trilogy happened to be around four pounds for the Kindle, well…

The coolest thing about these books is that the author is from Peterhead, Scotland, where I paid a visit last spring. It’s one of those sleepy fisher villages in Aberdeenshire. Has good fish and chips. The second coolest thing about the author – and the order of these two things is very negotiable, really – is that she wrote these books at like, sixteen. I mean, she’s 19 now and the books have sold millions and that’s just pretty amazing.

The story is about Eden, a 16-year old who goes to spend her summer vacation in Santa Monica, California (and let me tell you how much more I would have loved this if it were, say, Edinburgh, Scotland) with her father, who has been out of touch with her for years. She makes friends (none of whom I like, more on that later), meets her new family members (most of whom are filler) and her new stepbrother, Tyler. Tyler is a problematic, rude teenager with more issues than anything else. And naturally, Eden falls in love.

I have to admit that the book starts rather slow. It’s a lot of build-up and introduction and up until the halfway point, I was still waiting for the book to begin, having to make time to actually read it instead of being sucked into the world in any way. That’s why I’d like to give this a 3.5 rather than an actual 4, but I’m being nice and rounding up. Around the last third the story really did pick up and capture my interest, but is it really fair that I have to wait two thirds to be interested?

Eden as a main character is quite relatable. She’s a teenager with teenager problems and interests and all that. She’s annoying at times with those problems, but in the heart of the book, she’s a teenager. Her friends, Rachael, Tiffany and Meghan, plus some girl back at home, Amelia maybe? – are backstory-less, personalityless filler. They’re there so that we know that Eden has friends, that she’s popular and not all that pathetic. They don’t even match her personality, and yet I’m led to believe that Eden and Rachel are actually best friends now. What.

Adventures in Peterhead last spring!
The problem with Maskame’s age is clear – she’s very good at portraying the life of a sixteen-year old, but not necessarily capable of dealing with these things with all that much maturity. The book has a strong sense of high-school romance that’s supposedly going to last your entire life. I’m not saying that none of them do, but… I’m not sure if Eden and Tyler could be the kind of couple to overcome everything.

I’ll be reading the rest of the books, certainly. Not only because I went and bought them all or because it's Scottish, but also because I do want to know how the story continues from here. Hopefully the second book, Did I Mention I Need You? will waste far less time on introduction and something will actually happen in it. This book was a bit of a guilty pleasure read and certainly not an amazing peace of cult literature, but I kind of enjoyed it for what it was.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J.K. Rowling

'Your mother died to save you. If there is one thing Voldemort cannot understand, it is love. Love as powerful as your mother's for you leaves it's own mark. To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever.'

It feels a little weird to be reviewing something other people have read so many times and loved for so many years, while I've never actually read these books before. I feel unfit to say anything, considering how deeply I'm not actually in the lore or anything. I've watched these movies a couple of times years ago and I liked them without any passion or deeper thoughts to it. Who am I to talk about something this big?

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone is a tale about Harry Potter, a boy who learns on his eleventh birthday that he's a wizard and entitled to study at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. These he meets Ron and Hermione, who are to become his best friends.

I enjoyed the story a lot - one of the main things about Harry is that he didn't grow up with much, so he never comes across as mean or rude or anything like that. I had to like Harry, because he was just such a good person. Hermione however came across much more likeable than I ever realised before, mostly because she's so relatable. If I got the chance to study magic, especially coming from a non-magical family, I too would take the opportunity and make the most out of it for sure. Ron's made to be smarter than what the movies ever gave him credit for, as well. Snape's very well established as a villain and everyone else is super well fit to do just what they were written for.

Another very good reason to finally read this
book - it's our sittning theme of this year! 
My favourite thing about the book however is the writing. The description is enough and not boring - it sets the atmosphere so well and makes it seems almost magical (pun fully intended). The daily life is described enough but also has plenty of action sprinkled in between. It's also very, very English, which I find amusing, not to mention I can probably finally appreciate it to its full extent (you know who you are, yes, thank you). I also read it (?) as an audio book read by Stephen Fry, who's obviously amazing for the job. He portrays emotions and voices and situations so well, I wouldn't trade anything even if held at a gunpoint. Also, he's English and reads everything very poshly, and that's amusing as well.

If this book was everything there was, however, I wouldn't find it worth the worldwide phenomenon it is. It's a good book, a great book even, but I'm hoping for the world to only grow wings and improve on the very solid foundation provided here.  This was a singular adventure where a lot was spent on establishing the series, so maybe in the future we can get straight to it - not to mention how the books just get thicker and thicker and thicker. I'll certainly. continue listening to the audiobooks on my way to uni (I may have accidentally already bought half of them? Whoops.) and I am excited to see them all grow and the adventures they'll go on.