REVIEW: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

Review The Flatshare -- The Riverside Library

Of all the books I’ve come across in recent years, The Flatshare would have to have one of the most interesting premises. I was incredibly lucky to receive a review copy from Hachette Australia, and (this may just spoil the whole review for you) it was the complete highlight of my month.

The Flatshare follows Tiffy and Leon – two strangers who share a bed. How? While Leon works nights, Tiffy sleeps, and vice versa. It’s perfect – and they never have to meet. But what if that one person who you never meet, is actually someone you should? That’s the exact question The Flatshare asks.

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that contemporaries are definitely a genre I try to stay away from, although, you’ll also know I like to challenge my reading tastes. It was that particular hobby and the unique premise of this book that inspired me to pick this one up. Once I did, trust me, there was no putting it down and I may have already read it twice.

What I liked

This book is sunshine. Complete and utter sunshine. There were so many things that I loved about the book, so I'll have to narrow it down to just a few for brevity's sake.

I adored both of our lead characters. Tiffy and Leon both had flaws but they weren’t painted in a negative light, in fact, I'd be more inclined to call them quirks instead of flaws. The Flatshare makes you love these characters even when Leon would be incredibly difficult to crack in real life, and Tiffy might be too much to handle. I felt like this book had some kind of gentle magic that made me love these two real, quirky, and flawed characters.

Another thing I appreciated for a heartwarming contemporary was that The Flatshare didn’t shy away from difficult subject matters. Seeing Tiffy’s journey throughout the book was not something I expected, but it honestly made the book so much more enjoyable for me. This was a classic case of something I never knew I needed until it was in my hands, going into my brain. It also added an element of unpredictability for me, possibly because I wasn't expecting the storyline, there were elements in there that really took me by surprise.

What I didn’t like

It feels so strange trying to talk about something I didn't like in a book where I genuinely enjoyed everything.

If I had to pick out one thing that might turn readers away, it would be that Leon’s POV writing took a little to get used to. Coming from a science background, I was kind of used to the succinct, to the point sentences. I also absolutely adored how the writing style subtly changed as the book went on and Leon found himself in a different place emotionally.

You know it's a truly special book when my 'What I Didn't Like' section turns into talking about more things I adored.

My favourite thing

Can I just say everything? I genuinely adore this book, and I think I may have said that enough now to get my point across. I even bought the eBook, so when I'm travelling I will always have a copy (read: ray of sunshine) with me. I can't urge you enough to go out and get yourself a copy, and also, please, take a leaf out of Tiffy's book, and go about life being unapologetically yourself.

Mikaela | The Riverside Library

Book details:

Title: The Flatshare
Author: Beth O'Leary
Australian Publisher: Hachette
Australian Publication Date: May 2019
RRP: AU$32.99

Blurb:

Tiffy and Leon share a flat
Tiffy and Leon share a bed
Tiffy and Leon have never met...

Tiffy Moore needs a cheap flat, and fast. Leon Twomey works nights and needs cash. Their friends think they're crazy, but it's the perfect solution: Leon occupies the one-bed flat while Tiffy's at work in the day, and she has the run of the place the rest of the time.

But with obsessive ex-boyfriends, demanding clients at work, wrongly-imprisoned brothers and, of course, the fact that they still haven't met yet, they're about to discover that if you want the perfect home you need to throw the rulebook out the window...

 


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The Flatshare -- The Riverside Library

Should You Read Outlander? Yes, yes you should – and here’s why.

You Need to Read Outlander -- The Riverside Library

If you’ve never heard of Outlander, then chances are you’ve been living under a more colossal rock than me, and that’s saying something – my friends call me Patrick Star. I discovered Outlander thanks to the TV show’s theme song. Weird, I know, but let me explain. I was twenty minutes deep into pointless Buzzfeed quizzes and articles when I stumbled across it. I paused my thousandth listen through of Hamilton: An American Musical to press play, and boy oh boy! Is that song something or what? I grew up listening to bagpipes likely more often than your average Sassenach (mainly because my family could never pull away from their Scottish roots), and the sound always comes with a heart-crushing wave of nostalgia. I knew in that moment, I had to watch the show – but then, to my delight, I discovered that they were books! I think I melted.

Plot

Outlander follows Claire, a WWII nurse transported back in time to 1746 Scotland, and documents her trying times as she tries to find her way back home (you can find the full blurb at the end of the review).

My Reading Experience

The Outlander series could in no way, ever be described as a quick, light read. As of 2018, the shortest of all eight books is the first, Outlander, coming in at a whopping 627 pages (standard paperback). It’s a wonder then, how I managed to read the first five in a matter of weeks. But I was hooked, and when I am that entranced in something, I devour it, without coming up for air. I was lucky that the novels were available in my library’s eBook collection because I definitely could not fit them in my suitcase.

What I Liked

As always, I’m going to pick out two of the top things I liked in Outlander, even though there were many, many more than that.

Main Characters

Right off the bat, I loved Claire’s voice. Though I found the opening to Outlander slightly slow, it was the way that Gabaldon wrote Claire that had me reading page after page after page. She’s smart, strong, and still traditionally feminine (that’s a rare combination in a book, for some reason, a lot of characters can’t seem to be strong and feminine). As a woman in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), I loved reading the love and fascination that Claire has for science, her dedication to healing and to botany made me adore her even more. Though Claire definitely had her damsel in distress moments (more on that later), she didn’t sit around and wait for a man to walk in and change her life, she took charge, forged herself a career and did everything in her power to return home.

There’s no way I can write a review on Outlander and not mention Jamie Fraser. The thing that endlessly fascinates me about Jamie is the constant tension of beliefs he holds – on one hand, he’s a very forward-thinking, almost modern man, he takes Claire’s 1940’s quirks in stride and never forces an explanation from her, but on the other hand, he’s aware of the cultural expectations of him. He can’t ignore them, and there are some things though wrong to a modern audience, that sound quite fine to Jamie. That internal tension was one of my favourite aspects of his character – of course, he’s also got a few other things going for him. Y’know, just a few. He’s smart and kind, and loving, he’s devoted and funny, and I hear he’s quite a strapping lad. 

Humour and Heartbreak

Humour and heartbreak is my universal scale of a books goodness (yes, I’m aware that makes little sense, let’s roll with it). If it makes me laugh and breaks my heart then its done its job. Outlander succeeded in making me laugh, but more than that, it also succeeded in destroying my heart and leaving me a sobbing at 2 am when I should have been asleep. It also managed to evoke a plethora of other emotions I never knew a book other than Harry Potter could achieve. Outlander gets five out of five on the humour and heartbreak front.

What I Didn’t Like

Of course, I had to pick out a few things I didn’t like – after all, nothing is perfect. However close the Fraser’s might be.

Some Characters

This is nothing bad on the writing or the story, in fact, it’s more a good point than it is a bad point, because I don’t think I’ve hated fictional characters with more vehemence (maybe with the exception of Dolores Umbridge) than I hate both Jack Randall and Laoghaire McKenzie (and in later books, Stephen Bonnet). It’s a feat to write characters that well fleshed out and absolutely horrid to inspire hate (especially from me) but my word, my blood boils when those characters are in the books. I tossed up between putting these characters in the What I Liked part of this review, but ultimately, I really didn’t like them. 

Some of Claire’s Decision Making

As much as I loved Claire’s character and her wits, I have to say, she made some very questionable decisions. Some of which made me want to throw the book across the room and scream. There are some moments that have bad idea written all over them, and yet Claire is there in the middle of it. Claire is without a doubt, a strong heroine, but she is also a damsel in distress (granted that in some of the situations Claire finds herself in, anyone would probably need someone to come in and save them). 

Changing POV in later books

This is more a personal quirk than anything, I’m not a fan of multiple POVs, so I didn’t love that in later books. Having said that, I definitely enjoyed the addition of Jamie’s POV. I understand why all the additional POVs were introduced, but I still felt much more connected to Jamie and Claire than to any of the other narrators.  

My Favourite Thing

I usually struggle to find a favourite thing about a book, but despite Outlander containing so many elements that I absolutely adored, there was one that definitely stood out. You can probably tell from my review already, from the humour and heartbreak, to the vehement hate for some characters – Outlander is an incredibly immersive read. Just like the standing stones at Craig na Dun, Outlander sucks you in and plunges you right into the wilds of Scotland in the 1700s. It’s almost impossible to tear yourself from the world once it’s got its claws into you, and despite its incredible length, the book passes in what seems like the blink of an eye, because it acts as a time warp – you start it at 7pm one night and finish it three days later realising that you probably should eat, sleep and shower (okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration). I love Outlander dearly for this, I know that whenever I need to escape from my day-to-day reality, Jamie Fraser is waiting for me in Scotland, almost three-hundred years ago, and all I need to do is visit Craig na Dun open the book.

Star Rating

Outlander is a true binge-worthy series, and if you’re wondering whether you should take the plunge or not, my answer is yes. Definitely yes. Unsurprisingly, I gave Outlander 5 out of 5 stars.

Blurb: 

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743.
Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.

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REVIEW: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury Review -- The Riverside Library

The sequel to A Court of Thorns and Roses took me by surprise, even when I was already expecting something better than the original, I wasn’t expecting anything to hit quite so close to home.  I read the A Court of Thorns and Roses series after they were recommended to me by a friend at university. She spent a decent half hour before lab class gushing over the second in the series, assuring me of something I’d never found to be true – that the sequel was better than the original. Of course, I had to read them. If you haven’t read my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses, head on over and give it a read.

About

Following the events of A Court of Thorns and Roses, Feyre has been impacted in a severe mental, and emotional way – and Tamlin is no help at all. Locked in the Spring Court manor house for her own safety, Feyre needs out, but when that escape comes, she’s in for a ride of surprises.

Review

If I thought I devoured A Court of Thorns and Roses quickly, I had another think coming. Weighing in at a hefty 626 pages, A Court of Mist and Fury is no small book, but I couldn’t put it down – I had it read in a day. And in the end, my heart was reduced to mush.

Flaws

You all know that I like to start my reviews off with the flaws, in the structure of things it means the flaws are sandwiched in the middle and the review ends on a high note, not a low one. Having said that, there aren’t many flaws for me to discuss in this book – but of course, I found a few.

Lack of Diversity

As with my review of A Court of Thorns and Roses, it must be noted that some members of marginalised communities have objected to the portrayal of (and lack of) LGBTQ+ and people of colour in these books. Although the problematic representation is not unique to this series it’s important to be aware of these issues. As I’m not a POC or a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I can’t personally speak on this issue, but there are many great discussion on this topic throughout the bookish community.

Erotica

I’m not the worlds biggest fan of erotica. To be honest, I prefer if books don’t have it. I understand that relationships are integral to the plot of A Court of Mist and Fury, but I personally prefer a leave-it-to-your-imagination fade-to-black kind of scene. Having said this, including erotica by no means makes the book bad, it’s just a personal preference.

Problematic Aspects of Relationships

This is something that’s brought up a lot in the discussion of A Court of Thorns and Roses as a whole. There are, without a doubt, problematic relationships (hello, Tamlin – more on that later), and some relationships do have problematic aspects. There are events that take place in A Court of Thorns and Roses between Rhysand and Feyre that are totally not healthy and not okay. In A Court of Mist and Fury, these events are explored and explained, and I personally can understand the reasons for some character actions, but some readers may have difficulty.

Highlights

A Court of Mist and Fury has a tremendous amount of highlights for me, so, for the sake of this reveiw, I’m going to choose my top three highlights from the book, and my overall favourite thing.

The Treatment of Tamlin

Readers who adored Tamlin in the first book may be in for a nasty shock during A Court of Mist and Fury, but I was in for a surprise delight. I never liked Tamlin. I thought he was controlling, domineering, and wildly insecure. As I said in my A Court of Thorns and Roses review:

Tamlin’s controlling tendencies were disguised as legitimate concerns for human Feyre’s safety in a world of stronger, magical Fae. I would have rather seen Tamlin encourage Feyre to grow and to equip her with knowledge, instead of locking her in his charming mansion and hoping she’ll be okay with it.

Tamlin reminded me of so many YA love interests whose behaviour is rarely ever called out in the book for being so controlling and domineering. Maas plays on this so well in A Court of Mist and Fury having easily drawn you to Tamlin in the first book, knowing you’re desensitised to this behaviour, and fully aware you’ll accept Tamlin and Feyre together, then in the sequel, she slowly begins to show exactly what is wrong with Tamlin’s actions and treatment of Feyre. Though I pity Tamlin, somewhat, I was thrilled to see this turn of events.

Characters

A Court of Mist and Fury is filled with brand new characters, and the banter between friends is by far some of the most realistic dialogue I’ve come across in books recently. There’s something about the way that Maas writes these characters, despite being physically perfect and evidently too good to be true, they feel real. They are complex, flawed and always striving to see past their dark pasts and forge a future filled with hope. They each have their flaws, and they know it – this makes them far more loveable, and relatable.

Pacing

Where A Court of Thorns and Roses was predominantly character driven, A Court of Mist and Fury manages to find a perfect balance of plot and person. I couldn’t find a single dull moment during the story, and I thoroughly enjoyed the speed at which events unfolded and progressed, yet I didn’t feel as though the character’s individual arcs were in any way dwarfed or cast aside by the plot. I was very impressed.

Overall favourite thing – PTSD Representation

This was likely the most surprising aspect of A Court of Mist and Fury, one I never knew I needed until it was there. If you don’t know (which you probably don’t), I live with PTSD. I won’t go into the details, because this is a book review and I don’t owe anyone my story,  but I can tell you this, Sarah J Maas does a fantastic job at PTSD representation. Of course, everybody’s PTSD manifests in different ways, and Feyre’s is very different to mine, but one thing I appreciated incredibly was that Feyre’s PTSD didn’t go away, it didn’t heal itself, and it always reared its head when she needed it least. There is no magical cure. It lingers. Even if it’s potency is decreased by time, it comes back. Maas described the lonelinesses, the suffocation and the fear of the condition so well, I was blown away. It’s not something I ever expected to find in a romance/fantasy novel.
When my friend told me that A Court of Mist and Fury would blow my socks off, I didn’t believe her, but now I know I should have. I thoroughly enjoyed the second book in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Overall Rating

I gave A Court of Mist and Fury a full five stars. It was hands down my favourite read of 2016.


Official Blurb:

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.
Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

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