1996. Back in New York having studied in England, Joanna Rakoff lands into the real world with a bump. She takes a job in a publishing agency performing menial tasks for her outdated boss, whose sole client is JD Salinger. Unfamiliar with his work, Rakoff fails to see the importance of Jerry (how JD Salinger is referred to throughout the memoir) or the impact that any of his writing as had on his followers.

And having not published anything recently, JD Salinger’s stories seems as archaic as the office in which Joanna works. She has to copy dictation by an old typewriter as computers are strictly forbidden. Her office is like a museum, steeped in the history of the publishing world and not as fast paced or as modern as it should be. That is until Salinger decides that it is time to publish another piece of writing and things slowly start to change.

Rakoff’s year of working in the agency is chronicled in My Salinger Year. Rakoff explains her time there with heart warming candour and sentimentality. Her relationships with the people around her – her parents, her boss, her colleagues, her boyfriend and indeed, the man himself JD Salinger – all shape and define her during this period. Throughout her story you cannot help but see parallels between Rakoff and some of Salinger’s characters, for me this was mainly due to the theme of growing up which is ever present. Rakoff is likeable and so easy to relate to, especially if you yourself are in that transition period of becoming a fully fledged adult.

I loved this book. Really loved it but what I felt more of was the desire to know the author. A strange similarity (that even I have to acknowledge) to some of the Salinger fans that Rakoff found herself writing to. I wanted to ask her questions about her experiences; to know what part of the book she would choose to do a reading of; to hear more of her anecdotes from this time in her life.  I loved My Salinger Year for the intimacy that Rakoff created between herself and me, the reader. However, I will point out to all who read it or who are contemplating reading it that this book is dangerous. You will start it and lose hours of your life because it is difficult to put down. Don’t say that you haven’t been warned.

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff is available now.

My Salinger Year Cover

 

Book A Day

At the beginning of the month The Borough Press tweeted this photograph to get book enthusiasts (and you know, regular people) to think about the books that they have loved or had recommended to them or books that they haven’t managed to finish (you get the picture). Due to the phenomenal response of this project they have issued a July photograph. For now, here are my June picks. I hope you enjoy. #BookadayUK

1st Favourite book from childhood

I had a lot of favourite books from childhood. In particular, I loved the Sweet Valley Twins/High and Babysitter Club series but one of the books I loved most as a child was The Worst Witch by Jill Murphy. Before Hogwarts we had Miss Cackle’s Academy for Witches. I loved following Mildred Hubble’s misadventures as she faced arch nemesis Ethel Hallow under the watchful eye of Miss Hardbroom. She is the classic underdog.

2nd Best bargain

The best bargain book I have ever bought is A Million Little Pieces by James Frey. This is one of those book moments that I think every book lover experiences when they see a book cover but they forget the title and author name. I went to several different book stores asking for a book with a white cover speckled with what appears to be metallic ticker tape. No one could help me. However, I knew one day I would find it. Whilst looking for a second hand bookshelf I magically saw it sitting on a shelf. This bad boy (which is a fantastic read by the way) cost me the grand total of 20 English pence.

3rd One with a blue cover

I have several books with a blue cover but this has to be one of my favourites. Citadel by Kate Mosse is the third book of the Languedoc trilogy and if you have not read it before, and are planning to, then be warned it is a blood bath. A brilliant read though.

4th Least favourite book by favourite author

I don’t know if I have many favourite authors. I love JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series but she has three other books that I haven’t read. I don’t think I have read every book that a particular author has released. So for this one I am going to select David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. The other Dickens books that I have read I love; I would go so far as to class Great Expectations as one of my favourite books but David Copperfield just didn’t do it for me.

5th Doesn’t belong to me

A book that I have that doesn’t belong to me is Robert Rankin’s The Hollow Chocolate Bunnies of the Apocalypse. This book technically belongs to my boyfriend but I should confess now that I don’t intend to give it back to him. Not because I particularly liked the book. In fact, it was possibly the strangest book I have ever read and was at time bat crap crazy but I am a sentimental person and I have found a man that will indulge my love of literature…no matter how obscure and random that the book is.

6th The one I always give as a gift

Lately, the book that I have given as a gift is The Naughty Girls Book Club by Sophie Hart. For most book people that I know the escapism that a good chick-lit book can give is immeasurable. The moment that I finished this book (which I owned in Kindle format) I automatically bought it for my mother. I knew she would love it. For days whenever we would bump into each other at home (which by my description may seem massive with various cavities so the likely hood of us meeting would be slim but in reality is a 3 bedroom ex-council house) she would tell me where she was up to, which character she loved, what she thought would happen next. I love that my mother and I have that bond through books. Since she finished the book we have both bought it several times over for our friends; friends that have fallen in love with the story too.

7th Forgot I owned it

This one goes to Carry You by Beth Thomas. It is strange that I should forget this because it is a relatively new book having only been released recently. However, I pre-ordered it on my kindle and when I was out shopping one day I bought a physical copy of it having completely forgotten that I already had it. Ah well, you snooze you lose.

8th Have more than one copy

I have two copies of The Goddess Experience by Gisele Scanlon. In my defence, they have two different covers but I just love this book. If I were to ever write a book I would want it to be like this.

9th Film or TV tie-in

I love Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh. I also love the books sequel, Porno; since that hasn’t been made into a film (yet) it doesn’t count. I first read Trainspotting in high school. I borrowed it from the staff section of the school library that I, being a senior librarian at the time, had privileges to. It was too advanced for me at the tender and innocent age of fourteen, however, I gave it another attempt a few years later and whilst I still found it out of my usual book comfort zone I was entranced. I had never read a book that had been written entirely in Scottish dialect. I love this book and therefore have both a physical copy and a kindle edition.

10th Reminds me of someone I love

The book that reminds me of someone that I love has to be The Railway Children by E Nesbitt. This book reminds me of my boyfriend (not that I am likely to forget him). He and I live a million miles (well approximately 240 miles to be less dramatic) away from each other and so we are doing the long distance thing. There are constant train journeys involved so for Valentine’s Day 2014 he bought me the Folio Society’s edition of this book. It is gorgeous and it makes me smile every time I see it on my bookshelf.

11th Second hand bookshop gem

I am going to choose The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafon as my second hand bookshop gem; mainly because I love Zafon’s books. I would be more than willing to pay full price for his books which are so full of atmosphere and mystique but I recently found this one in a charity shop’s book section and didn’t hesitate in picking it up. Read Carlos Ruiz Zafon!

12th I pretend to have read it

I don’t think I have ever pretended to read a book before. I’m the kind of person that if someone starts talking about a book that I haven’t read then my interest is piqued and I go and buy the book. However, there is a book that I can’t remember if I have read or not. This is because the story is so well known that I can’t seem to determine if I know it from hearsay or from actually sitting with the paperback and devouring the story myself. That book is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I think that a timely reading of the classic is in order.

13th Makes me laugh

One of the books that always manages to make me laugh is Angus, Thongs and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison. I first read it when I was a teenager and sadly I empathised too well with the protagonist, Georgia and found the embarrassing situations that she found herself in rather too familiar.

14th An old favourite

A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks is definitely an old favourite of mine. I’m going to be quite controversial here. I don’t like The Notebook. I don’t fancy Ryan Gosling. I just don’t get why girls go crazy over him. I think out of the two books that A Walk to Remember has the better story. It is certainly much more heartbreaking.

15th Favourite fictional father

It would have to be Georgia’s dad in the Angus Thong series. He was so hapless and a source of all things funny.

16th Can’t believe more people haven’t read it

One of my favourite books is Derby Girl by Shauna Cross. I have always wanted to be part of the roller derby and this book is the basis for the movie Whip It, starring the delightful Ellen  Page and whilst people have seen the film they may not know that it is based on a book. It is, in my opinion, the best book to movie transformation that I have ever seen.

17th Future classic

A bookish friend and I were talking one day and she had asked me if I had read this book called One Day. I told her that I hadn’t and she begged me to keep my eye out for it because I would love it. I thought nothing more of it for a while and then one day (see what I did there?) I was in a shop and I saw this bright orange cover which intrigued me and I realised it was the book she was talking about. I picked it up and started it that day. It consumed me. I got completely lost in the pages to the point that when I had to go out and meet friends the book came with me and rather rudely whenever they left the table to go to the bar or the bathroom I would get the book out and read it. The writing is gorgeous and the story is heartbreakingly lovely. This will be one that in 20 years time people will still be recommending.

18th Bought on a recommendation

I bought BUGS in Writing on the recommendation of my boyfriend. He frequently gets frustrated by my excessive use of commas. My grammar is generally ok but there are times when I do punctuate willy-nilly or equally, not at all. I would recommend this one to anyone who is trying to get to grips with grammar.

19th Still can’t stop talking about it

I was given a book by a friend called Claire who told me to read it. She told me that it wasn’t your traditional love story but to give it a go. Now the copy she had given me wasn’t attractive. It was bevelled from being dropped in the bath so I put it on my bookshelf and thought nothing more of it.

A few weeks later my friend Hannah was recommending a book to me and she was still distraught over it. That book was Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. I realised I had it and so with two recommendations I decided to give it a read. Oh my wow. It has been two years since I have read it and even now I still find it heartbreaking. I couldn’t read the last 80 pages for the tears. That is some damn fine writing that can still pull on your heart and still resonate two years later. It also inspired me to read more songs by Jojo Moyes.

20th Favourite cover

I really love the cover of The Perks of Being a Wallflower. It is sad to say it, but we all do judge a book by its cover and there are books that I will sniff at because I don’t like the cover. Stephen Chbosky’s book is fabulous and the cover is gorgeous. I love the punched title and the colours. I just love it. It was why I bought the book several years ago. Long before the movie which I have yet to watch.

21st Summer read

My summer read is going to be Written in the Stars by Ali Harris. I plan on reading it as part of book blogger @EmmaIsWriting’s #Sunathon which takes place between 21st – 27th July.

22nd Out of print

I have recently bought Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story. I had to buy it second hand as I think it is now out of print. I have never read the book but I loved the movie and it still terrifies me to this day. I am fascinated with stories set in bookshops or libraries which this is. I am also looking forward to seeing how the book differs from the movie.

23rd Made to read at school

I read Talking in Whispers for my GCSE’s and I was blown away by it. Even now I remember how much it took me out of my reading comfort zone. It still resonates all these years later.

24th Hooked me in to reading

I actually can’t remember what book that hooked me into reading. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t either read or was read to. I suppose that the Sweet Valley books and the Babysitters Club books were the first set of books that I read avidly.

25th Never finished it

I am ashamed to say that I never made it all the way through Anna Karenina.  I have been up to Book 12 since I was 16. That’s almost 15 years. Jeepers. I have promised Andy Miller, the writer of A Year of Reading Dangerously that I will start it from the beginning and this time I will finish it. The thing is I liked the story but the book about the love of fields was a tad tedious.

26th Should have sold more copies

I’m going to throw in a bit of an odd choice here. I think the Harry Potter series should have sold more copies. Yes I know it is one of the bestselling book series of all time but damn it more people should give it a read. I can name a few people who haven’t and it still shocks me. Viva la Harry Potter.

27th Want to be one of the characters

I was asked by a friend for a list of books that I wanted for Christmas and I had been secretly eyeing Meant to Be by Lauren Morrill. I like YA fiction, but I like it even more when I fall in love with the characters. I wanted to be Julia. I wanted to go out with Jason. I wanted to have Oh Darling! by The Beatles sung at me in an abandoned place in London covered with graffiti. It is such a damn good book. Read it!

28th Bought at my fave independent bookshop

In Liverpool we have an Oxfam Bookshop and I recently bought Porno by Irvine Welsh from there. I love Irvine Welsh books, the injection of humour around hard hitting topics always keep me entertained.

29th The one I have reread most often

I have read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte on several occasions. The first time I read it was because my English teacher (and now friend) Shirley recommended it to me. It was probably the first classic that I had ever read. I have since read it as part of my degree (English Literature and Cultural History combined with Media and Cultural Studies) and each time I just get lost in the story. I think that you know a good story when you can keep coming back to it over and over again and falling in love with it all over again.

30th Would save if my house burned down

The honour of this book goes to The Grimmerie. It is the accompanying book to Wicked the musical. I did not like the book Wicked by Gregory Maguire. It was too twisty and warped for my liking; this didn’t stop me reading the sequel Son of a Witch. However, the musical is fantastic and such a clever premise that completely usurps your belief in the Wizard of Oz. The Grimmerie is fabulous and is tangibly exciting with its puffed out cover and gorgeous photography. I love it.

Hello. My name is Lisa Bentley and I am a book addict.

Ok, so this isn’t new or groundbreaking reportage but I just wanted to share with you all the extent of this addiction.

I suppose the best way to describe my attitude toward books is gluttonous. I see books and I want them, not enough to fill m up and feel comfortably full. Oh no. That would be far too easy. I want them all. I am a slave to the “Buy with 1-Click” button; my first stop in any shop is the book section. I constantly have an inner turmoil happening, telling myself that I don’t need the book but damn it, I want it.

So I decided to look at my book purchases this month. It consisted of Kindle purchases, NetGalley downloads and the classic physical copy, both purchased and those I have borrowed from the library. Here goes:

 

Kindle Purchases

Empire Girls by Suzanne Hayes

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Cigarettes and Alcohol by Phil Sloan

Bridal Bootcamp by Bella Bailey

Effortless With You by Lizzy Charles

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

When Alice met Danny by TA Williiams

Love Always, Kate by D Nichole King

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Make it Count by Megan Erikson

Desperately Ever After by Laura Kenyon

Soy Sauce for Beginners by Kristen Chen

The Trouble with Knights in Shining Armour by Valerie Anne Baglietto

Ice Cream at Carrington’s by Alexandra Brown

The One Before the One by Katy Regan

Written in the Stars by Ali Harris

Fan by Danny Rhodes

Reasons not to Fall in Love by Kirsty Mosely

Structuring Your Novel by KM Weiland

500 Ways to Write Harder by Chuck Wendig

One Night in Italy by Lucy Diamond

Write Your Novel from the Middle by James Scott Bell

Writers block by Judith Flanders

Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by David Levithan

Melo Hearts by Ella Marie

The Mysterious Bakery on Rue de Paris by Evie Gaughan

The Dating Experiment by Jennifer Eddlund

The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Coffee Cigarettes and Crisis by Jana Misho

Legacy of Love by Louise Pakeman

Lotties Luck by Amanda Egan

Me Without You by Kellly Rimmer

Don’t Even Think About it by Sarah Mlynowski

Shotgun Lovesongs by Nikolas Butler

The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro

The Reluctant Celebrity by Laurie Ellingham

I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes

Stupid Girl by Cindy Miles

Butter by Erin Lange

Ghostwritten by Isabel Wolff

Amy and Matthew by Cammie McGovern

Styling Wellywood by Late O’Keefe

Half Bad by Sally Green

The Etymologican by Mark Forsyth

The Truth about the Harry Querbert Affair b Joel Dicker

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

The Breakup Doctor by Phoebe Fox

L’Amour Actually by Melanie Jones

A Part of Me by Anouska Knight

Are You Happy Now by Richard Babcock

Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

Kingdom Collection by Marie Hall

The Unpredictable Consequences of Love by Jill Mansell

Nerd Girl by Sue Lee

Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

What’s A Girl to Do by Aimee Duffy

A French Girl in New York by Ana Adams

Life in a Rut, Love not Included by JD Hollyfield

There’s More to Life Than Cupcakes by Poppy Dolan

The Magpies by Mark Edwards

The High Street Bride’s Guide by Samantha Birch

Amanda’s Wedding by Jenny Colgan

 

Library Books

Tony Hogan Bought Me an Ice Cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson

In Between Days by Andrew Porter

Last Bus to Coffeeville

Note To Self by Alina Simone

Submarine by Joe Dunhome

Youth In Revolt by CD Payne

60 Postcards by Rachael Chadwick

I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchinson

Havisham by Ronald Frame

Stuff I’ve Been Reading by Nick Hornby

Ziggyology: A Brief History of Ziggy Stardust by Simon Goddard

 

NetGalley Downloads

The Final Testamony of Ralph Ignatious Phoenix by Paul Sussman

Only With You by Cecelia Gray

The Broken Heart Diet by Tom Formaro

My Salinger Year by Joanna Rakoff

Yours for Eternity by Damien Echols

One Two Three by Elodie Nowodazkij

Love Lies and Lemon Cake by Sue Watson

Facing the Music by Tim Thorogood

Apart At The Seams by Melissa Ford

A Gift to Remember by Melissa Hill

Flirty Dancing by Jenny McLachlan

Liberty Silk by Kate Beaufoy

How We Deal With Gravity by Ginger Scott

First Tango in Paris by Shelley Thrasher

Before You by Amber Hart

The Atlas of Us by Tracy Buchanan

Where Love Lies by Julie Cohen

Between the Lives by Jessica Shrivington

Your Beautiful Lies by Louise Douglas

It Had To Be You by Ellie Adams

These Days Are Ours by Melissa Himoff

Mademoiselle by Rhonda K Garlick

Chelsea Bird by Virginia Ironside

The Last Days of Rabbit Hayes by Anna McPartlin

 

Physical Books

Being Sloane Jacobs by Lauren Morrill

Pitch Perfect by Mickey Rapkin

The Never Ending Story by Michael Ende

Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo

All That Glitters by Pearl Lowe

Happily Ever After by Elizabeth Maxwell

Love Is A Mixtape by Rob Sheffield

Looking at the amount I feel a little bit sick. Holy crap. Anywho, my pledge to myself is to not buy any more until I have read the majority of the books on this list. The reasons for this are simple. It is costing me a fortune and also I am running out of space on my kindle.

If anyone can think of any aversion therapy that they think may help with my addiction please do get in contact.

Since Forever AgoTitle: Since Forever Ago

Author: Olivia Besse

Pages: 316 Pages

Publisher: Wunderland Press

The Blurb

Fresh off the heels of a devastating breakup, Riley Benson is a mess. But with her ingenious plan to become a ball-busting heartbreaker herself, she’s pretty sure she’ll survive. After all, what better way is there to get revenge than to move on?

Riley’s determined to become the perfect bachelorette—she’s going to drink like a bro, belch like a beast and swear so much that she’ll make even the most seasoned sailors blush. After all, those are the qualities that every guy’s secretly looking for…. aren’t they?

Max Fletcher is in love with the girl who gave him chicken pox and his first broken leg. When his best friend seems to finally be out of the picture, he can’t help but want to keep Riley all to himself. And, after coaching her with the very best of the very worst love advice, it seems as if he might actually get what he’s wanted after all those years. But just as the two come to the realization that they’re actually kind of perfect for each other, along comes a secret that threatens to tear them apart.

This novel contains graphic sexual content and strong language. It is intended for mature readers.

The Review

Riley has just found out that her boyfriend Noah has been cheating on her. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. It happens on the very first page, heck it happens on the blurb. So like any girl in her early twenties she falls upon her band of friends for support to get her through this difficult time.

Her friends, Liz and Audrey ply her with alcohol and good times and chorus about how much of a douche bag Noah is. Her lifelong friend Max sees this as the perfect opportunity to make Riley fall in love with him. Max has loved her since they were children but never had the chance to act on his feelings but now his time has finally come. The only problem is will Riley reciprocate those feelings?

I knew what this book was going to be before I opened the first page. This is not a bad thing. There is a strange comfort in knowing how a story is going to pan out. What I was not expecting was for this classic tale of boy/girl romantic comedy to play out before my very eyes in such a fresh and relevant way. Besse has clearly got her finger on the pulse of NA fiction. The writing was sharp, witty and fast paced. The characters were likable – especially the female characters – with believable interactions bouncing between them.

I did at times feel that the story was heavily reliant on dialogue; however that also led me to the conclusion that this story would play out really well on-screen. If this book isn’t made into a movie I think it would be a crying shame.

I, for one, cannot wait to read more of Olivia Besse’s writing.

Since Forever Ago by Olivia Besse is available now.

4 Stars

Title: The Stonehenge Letters

The Stonehenge lettersAuthor: Harry Karlinsky

Pages: 256 Pages

Publisher: Harper Collins UK

The Blurb

A remarkable new novel from the Wellcome Trust longlisted author.

While digging through the Nobel Archives in Stockholm, trying to figure out why his hero, Sigmund Freud, never received a Nobel Prize, a psychiatrist makes an unusual discovery.

Among the unsolicited self-nominations in the museum’s ‘Crackpot’ file there are six letters addressed to Mr Ragnar Sohlman, executor of Alfred Nobel’s will. Remarkably, all but one has been written by a Nobel laureate – including Rudyard Kipling, Ivan Pavlov, Teddy Roosevelt and Marie Curie. Each letter attempts to explain why and how Stonehenge was constructed. Diligent research eventually uncovers that Alfred Nobel, intrigued by a young woman’s obsession with the mysterious landmark, added a secret codicil to his will:

A prize – reserved exclusively for Nobel laureates – was to be awarded to the person who can solve the mystery of Stonehenge.

Weaving together a wealth of primary documents – photos, letters, wills – The Stonehenge Letters is a wryly documented archive of a fascinating covert competition, complete with strange but illuminating submissions and a contentious prize-awarding process.

But is this fact or is this fiction?

The Review

Have you ever wondered how Stonehenge happened to become Stonehenge? This mystical circle of stones has fascinated people for as long as it records began. It is this mystery that is the forefront of Harry Karlinsky’s book The Stonehenge Letters.

The story is told from through various correspondences all linking back to Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Nobel prizes. And what sometimes reads as a factual text is in fact a fictional interpretation of events.

Firstly, let me say I really enjoyed this book. I was fascinated by the facts that were included and intrigued by the question of Stonehenge’s existence and indeed the thought processes of the people who tried to pose possible answers to this mystery – the likes of Madame Curie and Rudyard Kipling among others. However, I did become completely discombobulated by the mixture of fact and fiction. The Stonehenge Letters reads like fact but it is fiction. You have to adjust your way of reading and accepting the information given.

Furthermore, the tenuous link to Freud seemed misplaced. Initially it is given as a bit of backs story into the research of Nobel prize nominees but it goes no further than that and could have probably been omitted without consequence to the rest of the story.

If you take this book as it is, a fictional account of a historical figure then you will find the facts and information entertaining. However, I personally feel more could have been made of this book had it been presented more like a fictional text.

The Stonehenge Letters by Harry Karlinsky is available now.

3 Stars