Review: Pretending by Holly Bourne

Description:

He said he was looking for a ‘partner in crime’ which everyone knows is shorthand for ‘a woman who isn’t real’.

April is kind, pretty, and relatively normal – yet she can’t seem to get past date five. Every time she thinks she’s found someone to trust, they reveal themselves to be awful, leaving her heartbroken. And angry.

If only April could be more like Gretel.

Gretel is exactly what men want – she’s a Regular Everyday Manic Pixie Dream Girl Next Door With No Problems.

The problem is, Gretel isn’t real. And April is now claiming to be her.

As soon as April starts ‘being’ Gretel, dating becomes much more fun – especially once she reels in the unsuspecting Joshua.

Finally, April is the one in control, but can she control her own feelings? And as she and Joshua grow closer, how long will she be able to keep pretending?

Review

This was the book I needed to read. Holly Bourne is my Yoda. She always has been, always will be. Bourne’s writing doesn’t sugar coat the realities of life, love and mental health. She doesn’t bog it down and ask you to wallow either. Instead, she makes it the new normal. She makes me the new normal: stronger and more accepting of myself and prepared to fight the things I can.
While the character of April could, in another writer’s hands, feel cringeworthy and ‘unlikable’ Bourne gives the reader the extra character balance and insight to remove the stereotype checklist and make her relatable and someone the reader understands.
Bourne is the Queen of first person narratives. It allows the reader to feasibly relate or, at the very least, empathise. Pretending is no exception and Bourne is able to give a unique voice to the protagonist.
This book charms, educates and opens the reader up to question how relationships impact our identity. It’s not just thrown together either, this is a well researched, sensitively provoking rather than a fashionable theme shoehorned in.
Thank you, Holly Bourne, for constantly breaking ground and being the trailblazer we all need.

Onward

Rating U

Length 1hr 42

Release 6.3.2020

Director Dan Scanlon

About Two teenage elf brothers, Ian and Barley Lightfoot, go on an journey to discover if there is still a little magic left out there in order to spend one last day with their father, who died when they were too young to remember him.

Thee Good

Could you imagine a better ‘brother’ pairing than the actors who play Starlord and Peter Parker, playing them almost as those characters?! They beautifully compliment each other and almost make me wish it wasn’t an animation.

The story is… well it’s very me. Which is not overly helpful in a review, but it’s a heartfelt and geeky journey while dabbling in the lore of D&D. That ticks all the boxes for me.

Dogs are dragons and cats are unicorns! Genius and I couldn’t love it any more than I do.

It has all the elements of a road trip movie; things go wrong, the characters butt heads, they bond and they sacrifice. All done in a family friendly landscape.

The absolute best part of this movie is the relationship between the two brothers. It would have been all too easy to have the magical ability of one cause friction and jealousy with the other. Instead we get this beautiful dynamic in which we see how siblings support and encourage.

Thee Bad

It’s not a film for everyone. It’s not as universal as many of Pixar’s movies and I believe that it’s because the story is so personal, so subjective.

Thee Ugly

The storyline being linked to having one last chance to speak to a loved one they’ve lost really hit close to home and there were ugly tears. They were good tears and have really made me feel better, but man… they were uuuuuugly!

Final Thoughts

If it hadn’t made me cry so much, I’d have watched this at least four more times already.

Devil Darling Spy Blog Tour Q&A with Matt Killeen

You made it very clear about the dates throughout the book and there are many years in which the war continues. Are there plans to continue Sarah’s story beyond the two novels?

Sarah certainly has more missions ahead of her, and you’re right, there are five more years of the war to go…assuming she can survive that long. I have many ideas and some clear thoughts about where she might end up. Also, finding something she can realistically influence is important…but there’s a very stark delineation between things that live in my head and what publishing may or may not share with the world. Sarah may find herself kicking her heels for a while.


Are there any difficulties to rooting a story in history? On the flip side, what are the rewards?

It is certainly swings and roundabouts. I always say that “history delivers”. Almost every piece of research provides something astounding that I can use to further the narrative. I imagined a Nazi boarding school, and lo, there they were the Napola Schools. I also like the framework that real events provide and the craft of winding your narrative between the real bits, so you can tell several stories at once. But assuming that you’re writing fiction, you are on some level simultaneously proposing an alternative history – even narrative non-fiction works demand a little guesswork and elaboration. That’s a responsibility too. What’s hard is that these events – including the death, atrocity and horror – happened to real people. You owe them, to tell their story, or the story of which they were a part, with some authenticity – either by fact or emotional truth. That’s an abstract concept if you’re talking about Ancient Rome, but WW2 is well-documented. There’s a lot of faces looking back at you. I’d argue for the necessity of forging a compelling narrative as a vehicle to discuss and highlight important issues – “history must be burned into the imagination before it can accepted by the reason” Lord Macaulay said, I think – but there’s a line, somewhere along the way, where you pass into exploitation, prurience and tastelessness. That moment isn’t always clear and obvious. This is particularly apparent when you talk about the Holocaust. Writing Devil Darling Spy, I’m dealing with colonialism and imperialism – that exploitation continues in one form or another and real responsibility for the horror has not been taken by the perpetrators. This is raw and ongoing. That makes all this harder to do right and there’s a reasonable argument that I shouldn’t even be trying. But I couldn’t walk away from the chance to put these events front and centre of people’s minds.


Both Orphan Monster Spy and Devil Darling Spy are empowering to readers today. What other books have you discovered since the release of Orphan Monster Spy that you feel demonstrate the same empowering theme?

​Well I’m glad to hear people find them empowering…certainly that would be my hope, but Sarah kind of does her own thing. As my editor once put it, “Sarah does not always model good behaviour.” I was just thinking about the moment she saves the Captain on the dock in Friedrichshafen in Orphan Monster Spy. That was Sarah’s decision. She wasn’t going to be saved, or even save herself. That’s the moment I understood her, when I really knew who she was. I know some writers hate this idea, that characters could or should make decisions, but that’s how it is for me.

There have been some excellent, nuanced female characters of late – well-written women and girls rather than the “kick-ass” archetype – like Wing Jones, Tulip Taylor, Izzy O’Neill,  and I’m a sucker for the profoundly flawed, like Bevan from Other Words for Smoke. Then there’s Amani from Alwyn’s Hamilton’s Rebel of the Sands Trilogy which I finished since Orphan was released…they feel related, which shouldn’t surprise as many of the people who chose Amani’s story for publication, also chose Sarah’s.

I make no apologies for the graphic novel reference – because comics are reading – but of everything I’ve read lately, I’m finding the Lumberjanes comics to be the most invigorating, joyful fiction. All female and diverse ensemble cast of wonderful characters having funny, smart and rollicking adventures at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. I feel empowered, I can only imagine the power of these characters for young teenagers. One of its creators is the showrunner on the new She-Ra series, which is happily consuming me right now. In fact, I’m wearing a She-Ra t-shirt as I’m typing this…and I hated the old show for the exploitative, unreconstructed toy commercial it was.


Do you listen to any particular music while writing?

Music is very important to me, but I need a very specific kind of music to write to. It usually can’t have words or be too up-tempo, and guitar-based stuff is too intrusive. It has to allow a certain detachment, but can’t be drivel either – something that I can lost in, but doesn’t dominate my brain. Soundtracks don’t always do this and not all classical music hits the spot, but I think what works best is called New Classical or Neo-classical or something equally dismal. A Winged Victory for the Sullen is the best example. There are certain pieces or albums that are absolutely tied into my work, both as inspiration and as soundtrack to the action. Agnes Obel and Kathryn Joseph are rare examples of vocalists that I work to, as they’re all quiet pianos, pain and anguish. So I have an evolving and ever-growing playlist of this stuff, and when it goes on, I’m ready.

For more general, around the writing work, I listen to BBC 6Music but I really don’t like the schedule changes they made about a year ago. After nearly 10 years of working at home and hearing the same voices every day, losing them for something less than was a bit heartbreaking. I’m still grieving. I’ve found Spotify really good, it came with my new phone, but I have severe reservations about its morality. They don’t pay their artists much of anything.


Devil Darling Spy is out 5th March

Check out my next post for my review x

Blog Tour Review: Highfire by Eoin Colfer

‘A joyous fantasy for grownups’ Guardian 

‘A funny, offbeat adult fantasy novel’ Independent

‘A dazzling first adult novel from bestselling children’s author Colfer’ Daily Mail

Highfire is a genre-bending tour-de-force of comedy and action by the million-copy-selling master storyteller.

Squib Moreau may be swamp-wild, but his intentions are (generally) good: he really wants to be a supportive son to his hard-working momma Elodie. But sometimes life gets in the way – like when Fake Daddy walked out on them leaving a ton of debt, or when crooked Constable Regence Hooke got to thinking pretty Elodie Moreau was just the gal for him . . .

An apprenticeship with the local moonshine runner, servicing the bayou, looks like the only way to pay off the family debts and maybe get Squib and his momma a place in town, far from Constable Hooke’s unwanted courtship and Fake Daddy’s reputation.

Unfortunately for Squib, Hooke has his own eye on that very same stretch of bayou – and neither of them have taken into account the fire-breathing dragon hiding out in the Louisiana swamp . . . 

For Squib Moreau, Regence Hooke and Vern, aka Lord Highfire of Highfire Eyrie, life is never going to be the same again.

‘Told in crunchy prose, with lashings of earthy dialogue, it reads like an Elmore Leonard Thriller, but with dragons . . . Colfer clearly had a blast writing this, and his sheer storytelling panache brushes aside the quibbles of fantasy-genre agnostics with infectious glee’ Mail on Sunday

From the internationally bestselling author of the Artemis Fowl series: Eoin Colfer’s first adult fantasy novel is a hilarious, high-octane adventure about a vodka-drinking, Flashdance-loving dragon who’s been hiding out from the world – and potential torch-carrying mobs – in a Louisiana bayou . . . until his peaceful world’s turned upside down by a well-intentioned but wild Cajun tearaway and the crooked (and heavily armed) law officer who wants him dead.


What a glorious read from the amazing mind of Eoin Colfer. Vern is the last living dragon and reads like a character created for David Harbour to play. He’s gruff and closed off, and that’s the way he likes it. That is, of course, until Squib comes hurtling into his life, bringing with him chaos and danger.

It’s a well written, funny book that doesn’t hold back in the slightest. You can clearly see from how this book is crafted, why Colfer wrote another instalment in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s series. Colfer embodies Adams’ charm and wit and brings it to the 21st century.

This book is a perfect stand alone but I would love to see a sequel. Many sequels. Hell, if Eoin Colfer wants to throw out seven or eight tales of Vern and Squib, I’ll be there waiting for the publishing date of each one.

Han x