Thursday 30 January 2014

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby Review (& Film Trailer!)


"For disgraced TV presenter Martin Sharp the answer's pretty simple: he has, in his own words, 'pissed his life away'. And on New Years Eve he's going to end it all... But not, as it happens, alone. Because first single-mum Maureen, then eighteen year old Jess and lastly American rock-god JJ turn up and crash Martin's private party. They've stolen his idea - but brought their own reasons.

Yet it's hard to jump when you've got an audience queuing impatiently behind you. A few heated words and some slices of cold pizza later and these four strangers are suddenly allies. But is their unlikely friendship a good enough reason to carry on living?"


I've had this book for about a year now, and I must admit, it only made the top of my to-read pile once I caught wind of a film adaptation starring Aaron Paul (I'm still experiencing intense post-Breaking-Bad-trama...) That being said, I'm a disappointed with myself for not reading this book sooner. I loved every moment of it. It's an absolutely raw and honest story about four very different people struggling with depression.

Despite the heart of the book being about suicide, its actually very funny. The characters are so different and completely clash with each other which makes for very entertaining dialogue, which I'm really looking forward to seeing brought to life on screen. Each chapter is told from a different characters perspective too, which I really liked, as you were able to get full descriptions of each characters thoughts, feelings and fears. It was also interesting to get various characters opinions on different situations.

I must admit, I was already a Nick Hornby fan, so I already had high hopes for this book before even reading the blurb, and as usual, he did not let me down. The plot is seems very honest. There is no contrived plot developments. I think it's very easy for a book like this to turn into a cheesy tale of how all of these characters learnt from each other and completely cured each others depression. That simply isn't how real-life works. Yes, they did learn from each other, but depression is a constant struggle, something that someone has to tackle head-on, and something that cannot simply be cured by companionship alone, and A Long Way Down portrayed it as such.

Despite the blurb stating that they become "friends", I would suggest otherwise. It is more accurate to state that they are stuck together. They are situational "friends" bound together by their shared experience of depression. But that doesn't mean they like each other! That's actually what made the book so funny. These four people who would have never met, let alone associated with each are suddenly bound together through shared experience.

This book was actually quite similar to the last book I reviewed This is Where I Leave You by Jonathon Tropper. That book was also dealing with a darker subject matter in a comedic way. However, I only rated that book a 3, due to the fact that the ending was not tied up enough at the end. And although this book also doesn't completely tie everything up at the end, I am satisfied by the subtle character developments in A Long Way Down, which unfortunately, I felt This is Where I Leave You lacked.

I really enjoyed this book, and it's the type of book that you read and instantly want others to read. So if you have this book lying around, or spot it in a book shop, I hope you pick it up, and give it a read. I don't think you'll regret it!

Favourite Quotes:

"When we first split up, he called me a stalker, but that's like an emotive word, 'stalker', isn't it? I don't think you can call it stalking when it's just phone calls and letters and emails and knocking on the door."

"Everyone knows how to talk, and no one knows what to say."

"Most people have a rope that ties them to someone, and that rope can be short or it can be long. (Be long. Belong. Get it?) You don't know how long, though. It's not your choice."

I must admit, I was having large fan-girl episodes yesterday, what with both this and The Fault in Our Stars trailer being released. I'm very happy to say that both trailers seem like they have done the book justice. 2014 is going to be a good year for film adaptations, I can feel it! 

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Tuesday 28 January 2014

DIY Memory Jar

2014 is the year to get happy, I've already started my year off right by attempting the #100happydays challenge. Big things are going to be happening to me this year, I'm currently looking to secure my first full time job as a graduate, and once I do, my boyfriend and I are planning to move in together. Not to mention the fact that my graduation ceremony is this year, and I haven't even begun to mention all of the social gatherings I'm already mentally planning!

So, when I saw that the lovely Lauren at OhHay! Blogs had made herself a memory jar, I knew I needed one too! What better way to document an important year by doing something so creative? Once the year is over I should hopefully have a full jar of memories, photographs and bric-a-brac I've picked up along the way. It's also making a gorgeous addition to my bedroom!

The jar was from TKMaxx in the kitchen section, and I've decorated it using a gift tag, that I've tied on with some string, and filled the bottom with heart confetti. Every time something happens that I want to remember, I'm going to jot it down on a post-it note and put it in the jar! I'm going to include photographs and ticket stubs etc too. Anything that evokes a memory is going in this jar! Which is a lot more of an organised system than my current one (namely, everything scattered around my room).

I'm hoping that by the end of the year, it'll be completely full, and ready to be re-filled in 2015. I posted this to Instagram yesterday as apart of the #100happydays challenge, and it got a lot of attention, so let me know if you're thinking of making your own!

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Monday 20 January 2014

C'mon, get happy! #100happydays

Let's banish January blues once and for all, and start celebrating the little things in life that make us happy. I first heard about the #100happydays challenge from Zara at Page 394, The challenge is simple, everyday take a quick snap of something that has made you happy and do it everyday, for a 100 days! Sounds pretty fun, right?

According to the #100happydays website, 71% of people who fail this challenge quote lack of time as their excuse. I find this very sad as surely it's only a minute or two out of your day, and those minutes certainly aren't wasted, they're being used to document happiness. And that's never a waste of time in my book!  

One of the things I really like about this challenge is that it forces you to document those little moments that you might not have fully appreciated otherwise. Personally, I've been in a bit of a low place recently, and I feel like this challenge is exactly what I need to pull me out of my funk. But even if I weren't, it's so important to be grateful and thankful for the many gifts we're given each day. 

So, how does this work? Well, you can find out more information (and sign up) on the #100happydays website, but you pick a social media platform of choice, and upload a photo everyday with the hashtag #100happydays. I've chosen Instagram for my challenge, and you can also find my pictures through the hashtag #amandasadventures. 

So, what are you waiting for? It's time to get snappy happy! 

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Sunday 19 January 2014

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper Review


"Judd Foxman has the life he always thought he'd have. Good job, loving wife and a perfect house in the suburbs. That is, until he arrives home to find his wife in bed with his boss.

To prove things can get worse, Judd is summoned back to his childhood home - along with the rest of his highly dysfunctional family - to mourn for his recently deceased father. Seven days, all together, back in the family home where no one got along the first time around..."


I first picked up this book due to the recommendation of Guiliana Rancic on E! News. They were discussing the book in relation to the adaptation film being made starring Tina Fey, Jason Bateman and Jane Fonda. And as a big fan of Tina's, I knew I had to give this book a read.

From the first page I was completed hooked into the story due to Tropper's engaging writing style. I'd describe this book as a dark comedy as the plot revolves around the break down of a marriage, the loss of a family member and the existential crisis that is bound to happen when your life falls apart. Having said that, there are some laugh-out-loud moments. There was a particular incident in particular (involving infidelity, a naked bum and a lit birthday cake), that made me laugh out loud to the point where my mom came into my bedroom to ask what I was laughing so hysterically at.

There is a running theme throughout this book that asks the question "What do you do when everything you thought you knew disappears?" And as a theme, it's a great one, as it is so relatable. There are also so many brilliant quotes throughout this book that I almost want to reread it and grab my highlighter pen to catch them all.

The characters were well-rounded and the witty dialogue between the characters was excellent. However, the reason why I'm only rating this book as a three is the fact that throughout the book the situations builds, subplots emerge, so many things happen, and unfortunately, things didn't tie up as much as I would have liked at the end. Whilst reading it I kept thinking "I wonder how this will end. I wonder how all these situations will be resolved." And quite frankly, they weren't.

Despite this, I'm still looking forward to the film, as they might give the story another perspective and dimension. (Side note: in the book here's a scene where Judd's mom is exercising in the living room to a Jane Fonda workout video, and they've actually casted Jane Fonda as the mother(!) which I think is pretty cool.) Overall, this book had a lot of potential, but I feel the plot ran away with itself, and although there were some very valuable themes about acceptance and personal growth, nothing much was resolved in the end.

Favourite Quotes

"It would be a terrible mistake to go through life thinking that people are the sum total of what you see."

"You have to look at what you have right in front of you, at what it could be, and stop measuring it against what you've lost."

"We all start out so damn sure, thinking we've got the world on a string. If we ever stopped to think about the infinite number of ways we could be undone, we've never leave our bedrooms."

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Saturday 11 January 2014

January's book | Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

I've officially finished reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, which means I've completed this months book for my 2014 book challenge! (If you are unaware of my challenge, and one of the main reasons I started this blog, you can find out more here.) I really enjoyed revisiting Alice and reliving her many adventures and all of the nonsensical characters she encounters along the way.

It was really interesting to reread this book, as I haven't picked it up since reading it as a child. And I must say, I was surprised by how quickly it transported me back to that time in my life. I was suddenly back in my childhood home, and I was reminded of the thoughts and feelings I experience when I first read it. 

I adore Alice as a character, and even as a 23 year old tall child adult, I couldn't believe how much I related to her. Her thoughts are constantly bouncing back and forth, and she constantly strives for perfection, and puts more pressure on her image than any child should. This is a very adult quality for a child to possess and perhaps this is why this book was so popular with both children and adults. 

Most of us are more familiar with the Disney version of this tale, myself included, and it was really fun to revisit all of the characters and scenes that the films dismissed. There is a lovely scene, in particular, where Alice, a gryphon and a turtle exchange stories, songs and poems (muddled up and nonsensical ones, of course!) The imagery was beautiful, and I found myself completely immersed in it. 

One of the things I love about this book is that it promotes imagination and creativity. Theres a beautiful scene right at the very end where Alice's sister closes her eyes and images that all of the everyday noises such as the rustling of the grass, and the tinkling sheep-bells are the noises of the white rabbit scuffling about and the sounds of the teacups at the Mad Hatters tea party. She is reluctant to open her eyes, because she knows that everything will turn back to normal, and be ordinary again. 

It's very symbolic of the transitioning from childhood to adulthood. And this book, not only promotes that grand imagination present in most children, but begs adults not to lose sight of the nonsensical and the whimsical. (Maybe this is why I love Wes Anderson movies so much...) 

I'm very happy that January's book challenge is completed, and I loved the fact that it forced me to revisit this childhood classic. I look forward to now rereading Through the Looking-Glass and what Alice found there.

Favourite quotes: 

"It's no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then."

"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."

"She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it.)"

Wednesday 8 January 2014

How important is a book cover?

We've all heard the phrase "don't judge a book by its cover", of course it's usually applied to anything other than an actual book. But, it got me thinking about how important book covers actually are for sales. I'll admit, I'm a sucker for a good book cover. I'm unsure if its because I have magpie-like tendencies, and am usually drawn to anything shiny, or the fact that my boyfriends a graphic designer, and his design orientated ways have rubbed off on me.

Either way, every time I spot a beautifully decorated cover, I can't help but think about how it will adorn my bookshelf. I have become so obsessed with beautiful covers, I have started collecting the Penguin Classics clothbound books. (And as you can see from my blog header, I have a weakness for a beautifully designed book.)

As much as I hate to admit it, I am definitely more inclined to pick a gorgeously designed book, over something that looks boring and dull. That's not saying that I wouldn't read a book with a plain cover, but a pretty cover definitely helps.

That being said, many of the books that have various different designs, are usually classic literature, and I think that the up-dated design is important in order to keep the books up-to-date. For example, a young person might not necessarily want to read The Picture of Dorian Gray, due to how old the book is. However, I think that these lovely covers attract people that would not consciously pick out an old book to read for enjoyment.

And some book covers can become completely iconic. I for one, am unable to see a white cloud on a blue background without thinking about John Green's The Fault In Our Stars. Even though we'd all love to claim that it's the story that matters, and not the aesthetics, I think that covers are more important that we give them credit for.

That being said, I think there is something very charming about a beaten and battered old book. My boyfriend and I have brought lots of second hand books, some that have coffee stains, and pages falling out and even some secret notes written inside them. (Those are the best kinds!) However, if I came across a book like that, and I had not of heard of the story or author, I doubt I'd buy it.

I'm curious to know what you all think? Let me know in the comments or through Twitter @amandajtweets.

And in slightly related news, I've added to my beautifully designed book collection. I had brought a clothbound Alices Adventures in Wonderland book, however, after only a day of having it, some of the pages started falling out. They were lovely about it at the shop, and I was hoping to get a straight exchange, but there was no others in stock.

Luckily for me, I managed to find this beautiful library in the childrens section, for half the price of the one book! It's also given me an opportunity to finally get around to reading Little Women and The Secret Garden, which I surprisingly never got round to as a child.

And I got all of these books for half of their originally price (£7.50!) I'm not entirely sure how long the Waterstones half price sale is on for, but I'd nip in there as soon as you can to grab some bargains. I am very pleased with mine! 

Sunday 5 January 2014

The 2014 Book Challenge: Januarys book


Thanks for stopping by. Adventures from the Bookshelf is a new literature and lifestyle blog. I was inspired to create this blog as I have ran blogs before, but I never had the motivation to post regularly enough, despite really enjoying blogging and the community that goes along with it. 

But this year to help myself maintain my blog, I've set myself a challenge! Every year I buy the Waterstones Literary Quotes wall calendar, for each month there is a different quote from a famous writer. So, what better way to widen my reading than to have a monthly author picked for me by the Waterstones calendar? Each month I plan on reading a book from that months author, and then write a full review on this blog. The full list can be found here, and if you want to join me or get involved with the blog, let me know. 

Januarys Book

This months author is Lewis Carroll, so it makes sense for me to read his most famous book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (What a coincidence that the first book on the list co-incicides with my blog name!) I am really looking forward to reading this book, as I have not read it since I was a child, so it will be interesting to see if I gain a different perspective rereading it as an adult. 

Let me know in the comments section if you're setting yourself a reading challenge this year too. (And if you're going to join me with my challenge!)

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