Recently I brought a load of books to keep me occupied over the Christmas period. One of them was this beauty of a book by Adelle Stripe. Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile tells the story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar. Andrea Dunbar grew up in extreme poverty on the Buttershaw Estate an estate in Bradford, Yorkshire. The book is interesting because it is a fictional story based on Andrea’s life events. I had to admit after reading the book I googled to find out more information as it wasn’t clear to me if Andrea had been a real writer or not. Looking back at the book for writing this review it does say that it is a work of fiction and ‘an alternative version of historic events’.
The story is gritty, Andrea had gone through some real hardship, falling pregnant young and then miscarrying, living with an abusive partner and then moving to a safe house, her unhealthy relationship with alcohol and poverty. her playwriting comes in when her teacher at school picks up the fact that she has a talent for writing. This leads to her writing The Arbor which was performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 1980. Rita, Sue and Bob too is the play which is she is well known for, debuted in 1982 tells the story of two women who have an affair with a married man. Her final play Shirley is about Shirley and her family and friends in an working class estate in Bradford in the 1980’s.
The book keeps you gripped throughout, at times the book makes you want to throttle Andrea as it seems that she is passing over opportunities at almost an act of self-sabotage.
I hadn’t heard of Andrea Dunbar before the book and I hadn’t heard of her screenplays before (it was in the 1980’s so before my time!) but I certainly want to read them. An extraordinary story about an extraordinary woman who managed to achieve her dream against every worse scenario possible.
Paulina and Fran, where do I start with this book? Well if you are a fan of GIRLS (last series on Sky Atlantic FYI) then you will love Paulina and Fran. The plot is typical Paulina is studying Art History (well studying is pushing it since she seems to seduce the staff members so she passes) and spends her time being up her own backside, using people for her own benefit, pondering life and having lots of sex. Cue Fran – studying half, rubbish at technology and has a glittering career in front of her. Paulina bumps into Fran at a party and then go on University trip together to Iceland. The story goes through their relationship between them both through finishing University and beyond.
I was originally attracted to this book by the front cover. The blurb sounded even better – a story of twenty somethings trying to figure out what they are doing in life – those stories are right up my street. I just didn’t enjoy the book however, I found the plot muddled, Paulina is just unbearable as a main character and Fran isn’t much better either and the ending was so disappointing. The book was a typical book about students at University spending their time getting high, having sex and hoping that they will become the next best thing in whatever area they are specialising in . It is a quick read but not the best.
What did you think of the book? Let me know below.
Young Adult books are such an important part of growing up. Considering there is so much media and other activities it is great that Young Adult books are still thriving and that bloggers such as the Mile Long Bookshelf covers these so eloquently. Here are four books by three authors that are so good that I want to share with you today.
Sweet Valley High – Francine Pascal
Ok I cheated a little, it is a series rather than a book. Originally penned in the 80’s (ebay have hundreds of these books going for next to nothing) compared to the rest of what I have written here Sweet Valley High is not hard hitting at all. The reason why I have included this series is because it played such an important part of my childhood. Sweet Valley High is about two 16 year old twins Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, who live in Sweet Valley – a suburb in California. The series charters their perfect life and what they get up in their escapades. I think everyone who read the books had such high hopes (and unrealistic) expectations about high school. High school for them was one big party with guys, cheerleading and hanging out in the Dairi Burger. When I started high school in the early 2000’s the closest to cheerleading was cross country (which I loved ironically) and the closest to the Dairi Burger was a Maccy D’s every Saturday with my parents.
I watched the TV series on SMTV (remember that?!) It is well worth buying a copy just to have a trip down memory lane or have a laugh at how stupid the plot lines were.
Junk – Melvin Burgess
The book that got Melvin a lot of drama and the Carnegie Medal. Two teenagers, Gemma and Tar, both from very different backgrounds. Tar with two alcoholic parents and Gemma who feels suffocated by hers move to Bristol and get involved with the drug scene. Gemma ends up having to sell her body to fund her habit but wants desperately to quit and Tar steals. The story has different protagonists, gritty and does not shy away from the reality of drug using and living on the streets. As I said above, the book was heavily criticised because Young Adult fiction didn’t contain those themes in the 90’s.
Student – David Belbin
This book I bought a few years ago just after I had left University and I wish I had read it at the time. It tells the story of Alison, who moves away from her small village near merseyside to live the University life in Nottingham. The story explores many aspects of University life such as sex, dropping out, abuse and drugs as Alison navigates from her first to final year. It really is worth a read.
Love Lessons – David Belbin
Last but certainly not least, Love Lessons by David Belbin. I bought this back when I was a teen second hand. The story follows Rachel who develops a crush on a teacher Mike. The crush develops into something more and the story details their romance over Rachel’s GCSE year from both sides.
What are your favourite Young Adult books? Let me know in the comments below.
Author: Gemma Burgess
Publish Date: 2013
Brooklyn Girls tells the story of Pia living in a Brownstone ( yes I had to google it, it looks like Carries flat in SATC) with three other girls in Brooklyn (Julia, Coco and Angie). They have all finished their education and so trying to find their way in life. The book attracted me to it because I wanted something a bit light hearted, I also really want to visit New York someday so therefore any literature going about New York is good for me.
Pia is a trouble maker, her parents bale her out time after time again. When she gets fired from her latest job that her father managed to get her. Her parents give her six weeks, if Pia does not have a job then she will have to fly back and live with them in Zurich.
After a series of failed interviews, Pia manages to get a job at a restaurant but then after a confrontation because a customer was making racist remarks at her she gets sacked. Pia finds herself wondering around a food fair and guess what- she gets the idea of running her own food business. After visiting a loan shark and getting $10,000 she gets a clapped out food truck and starts earning a living selling healthy food to busy New Yorkers.
To add to all this, Pia keeps bumping into this guy with a London accent. She fancies him but as he is always with a woman she thinks he is single. Until the woman turns out to be his sister, Pia goes on a disastrous date so we are left wondering will she finally get together with him?
I thought the book was good. A bit unrealistic ( I can’t give away too much but put it this way it does have a fairy tale ending). It was a Young Adult book so I am just a little old to be able to relate to the girls and their experiences as I am settled now. If you are in university or just finished it is more relatable. The realisation of (‘oh shit, I have this degree and now I need to do something with it!). As Brooklyn Girls is a series from reading this book that you get a glimpse into all of the girls lives. This does make you want to read the other books I see what you are doing here Gemma! So now I want to read the rest of the books because I am invested now. To round up if you want some humour, a quick read and somebody that is really trying but struggling to sort there life out then this is the book for you!
Author: Helen Russell
Publish Date: 2015
Genre: Non- fiction
Journalist Helen Russell just a year ago was living in London working in an extremely stressful job when her husband gets the opportunity to work at Lego for a year. Not being sure at first Helen does some research and finds that Denmark is one of the most happiest countries on the planet and she is intrigued why. Helen’s Danish journey is set out in 13 stages that follow the months of the year and an extra chapter called Christmas (the layout reminded me of Gretchen Rubins books). Throughout, the book is littered with quotes from specialists in Denmark ranging from culture to health and her journey of adjusting to a new culture and all the crazy traditions that come with it.
So what is so different about Denmark than the UK that makes them happier? What I found interesting was that Danes as a whole prefer paying high taxes because they know that one day they will need either the health service or education and have faith that their taxes will be spent wisely. Danes also value family time, in winter whole towns shut down as they prefer to stay in with lots of candles lit. Danes have a good work culture as well as it is mainly 8am- 4pm (Helen was shocked to find her husband back before five some days) and also father’s are given long paternity leave and that working very late is viewed as a negative as it is showing you cannot get your work done within the allotted time.
Danish people as a whole and this is what I think and what Helen thought underpinned their happiness was the level of trust Danes had for each other. The trust that Danes had in the state and their politicians was high (unlike the UK) and the level of trust for each other meant that people were happy to leave their children in prams outside the shops! What I also loved and picked up in the book about the Danish is that traditions are valued. I feel that in the UK sometimes we don’t value our traditions as we should or we have to be apologetic all the time for being British. Whereas the Danes just don’t care they will set fire to things and throw plates at houses to greet the new year in because they can.
So what did I think of the book? Overall I enjoyed the book, it really gave me an insight to Danish culture in a candid and fun way from someone who has experienced it first hand. At times, I was starting to find it boring and was ready for the book to finish. Nonetheless if you are interested in Scandinavian culture this book is worth buying.