Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi [Book Review]

I bought this book on a complete whim when I was out in Waterstones for the first time since before lockdown, and I was super excited! I loved the cover, had heard the name flying about somewhere on bookstagram, so thought: why not give it a go?

Summary

Before the Coffee Gets Cold is a Japanese bestseller in translation, all about a little coffee shop in the back alley of Tokyo with unique powers – the ability to send people back in time. If a visitor sits in one particular seat, they can travel back to any moment they choose. But there’s a catch: they must return to the present before the coffee gets cold.

My Thoughts

First of all, I just wanted to say how much I love the concept of this book. I have such a vivid image in my head of what it would be like to live in this coffee shop of a world, where travelling in time becomes a way of finding purpose, of understanding others, of understanding yourself. I found myself telling my family the plot of the book in so much detail, because it’s such an inspiring story, I couldn’t help talking about it!

However, there is a but. The but is that I really did not enjoy the writing itself, and that disappoints me so much. I really wanted to like it – I tried so hard to like it – but I couldn’t connect to the characters in the way I wanted to. It felt like standing in front of a brick wall and I just couldn’t get past it.

For me, a good book is one I can connect with on a deeper level, one where the characters come alive and exist in themselves, and I think with this one they felt a little bit like templates that hadn’t fully formed inside my head yet, which is such a shame, but that’s my honest opinion!

Overall, I feel like this book has so much potential – there are so many different directions it could have taken. The key message by the end of the book did swing it for me a little, because I liked the way it was concluded (I won’t reveal spoilers, don’t worry), but I can’t give it more than 3 stars.

This book won’t be for everyone, and it was a very conflicting read for me, but I still feel like I got something out of it – I’m sure the plot will stick with me for a while, regardless.

Have you read Before the Coffee Gets Cold?

Let me know in the comments below!


You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng [Book Review]

The only way I can think to describe Little Fires Everywhere is: quietly beautiful. It is calm and yet fierce. Slow and yet it douses your heart in gasoline quicker than you can imagine.

 

Summary

Little Fires Everywhere follows two families. There is the Richardsons, who live in the idealistic and perfectly constructed community that is Shaker Heights, and Mia and her daughter Pearl, who have the wildness and freedom of two people drifting from place to place. When the latter find themselves renting a place owned by the Richardsons, their lives are intertwined in ways they could never expect. A custody battle occurs in the neighbourhood, with a friend of the Richardson’s, and it drives everyone to their own conflicting opinions, bringing secrets of the past crawling to the surface. The house, and their subsequent lives, are aflame.

 

Quote

Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.

 

My Thoughts

It didn’t take long for me to submerge myself completely in this book. Ng’s writing is so easy to read, fall into, understand, and yet there is so much more to it than what you see on the surface.

What I loved most about this book was that it begins with the knowledge that a house is burning – you are told right from the very start – and yet by the end of the book I found myself caring about so much more than who did it. This wasn’t a typical mystery. This was all about the why, not the who.

The more I read, the more I realised that each and every character bloomed in their own unique way. Whilst a couple stereotypes are present, there is a challenge to each character, a side to them that is slowly revealed as the book continues. I couldn’t help but feel every character deserved their own voice and their own happy ending in their own personal sort of way. Everyone had a deeper reason to the decisions they made, and I liked that these were portrayed ever so gently.

I’m not sure who my favourite character was in this book, but I found Mia’s character the most intriguing. Her love for art, her way of intuitively understanding people, and her desire to care for others really resonated with me. I felt like she was never understood for who she was, until she met Izzy, and I loved this pairing of mismatched old souls with fierce love in their hearts.

I think this book is about so many things – teenagers, parenthood, justice and upbringing – but most importantly love, in all of its kinds. Underneath all the secrets, the anger, the isolation, is just the simple pain of wanting to or feeling or losing some kind of love. It just felt like all this love was bottled and caged rather than communicated, and yet each character knew deep in their hearts that it was present, like a tiny spark.

There is a cyclical nature to this book that I have to touch on, because I think it is so well written. The characters move in and out of these struggles and situations – particularly between mother’s and daughters – that weave in and out of one another, crossing over, and blooming at different points along the timeline. But, overall, there is the distinct notion that there is innate love in raising a child – a love that nothing can defy.

I knew I loved this book by the three-quarter mark, but I did not expect to be so emotionally drawn into what I thought was such a wonderful ending. *spoilers ahead* The envelope that Mia left on the table was full of so much kindness, so much meaning to every member of the Richardson family and this was by far the best moment of the entire book. I really wish Mia’s art was real because it is described so intricately and beautifully with deeper undercurrents. I couldn’t help but feel like Mia was the centre piece that kept all of them together – she was the one who knew them all the best of all, even if she was only watching from afar. It goes to show that vulnerability is at the core of everything – there is a fire inside us all and it only takes one person to release it.

 

img_6593

 

I really encourage anyone to read Little Fires Everywhere who is interested in the depths of family dynamics, in asking yourself conflicting yet important questions and absorbing yourself in a story full of so many overlapping heartfelt stories. I ended this book feeling a little emotional that I had to part, but I am looking forward to watching the TV show (although I really hope they do it justice!)

Have you read Little Fires Everywhere, or do you want to?

Let me know in the comments below!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

‘You’ by Caroline Kepnes [Book Review]

Before picking up this book, I’d already seen both season 1 and 2 of the TV show ‘You’. Normally, I try to read the book before seeing the adaptation, so this was a very strange experience!

It’s hard to know what I would have rated this book if I hadn’t seen the show. Perhaps I would have had a lower opinion of it, since I would have had to rely on the writing for imagery, or a higher one because I wouldn’t have seen the twists coming. Either way, I can only comment on my experience as it is.

Overall, I loved reading this. It was surprisingly very similar to the show, especially in terms of Joe’s voice and character – I didn’t find it hard to connect his literary persona with his theatrical one. I thought it was so interesting having it from the perspective of Joe because I could really get inside of his head. The more I read, the creepier he became, but it was weird trying to understand the internal voice of a sociopath. I think, stereotypically, they are seen as people with no emotion who intentionally harm people, but I think what made this book so intriguing was the fact that Joe did care – in fact he cared too much – and the reason he did everything he did was because he genuinely believed, in his own head, that he was doing what was right and what was best for the person he loved. And it was really quite scary how distorted his view was.

I found the character of Beck to be slightly disconnected from her character in the TV show. I’m not quite sure why, but it could be down to the book being from the perspective of Joe. He often tried to twist her into a bad person in the book, which isn’t necessarily reality, it is just his reality. It’s funny how perspective can completely change the way you see things.

This is the kind of book that is completely addictive. I wanted to pace through it and could quite easily have finished it in a few days if I hadn’t forced myself to drag it out. The writing itself isn’t necessarily the best I’ve ever read, but the character voice is so strong that you can’t help but be drawn into the world.

Part of me wishes I could have read this book before I’d seen the show, just to see if my opinions would have been different. But at the same time, I liked having the show in the back of my mind as it meant the story’s world was already set up in my mind and all I had to do was jump in again.

⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ out of 5

 

img_5327

 

Have you read or seen ‘You’?

Let me know your thoughts below!

You can find me on social media here:

Instagram: @mymindspeaksaloud

Twitter: @mindspeaksaloud

Goodreads: mymindspeaksaloud

365 Days of Happiness [*Gifted* Book Review]

365 Days of Happiness is a book that aims to bring happiness into each day of your life. When I first saw the cover, my brain instinctively thought it was a cookery book because it has a giant cupcake on the front and I’m a little obsessed with food. However, it is just symbolising the notion that gaining happiness can be simple; a piece of cake. Reading this book is one way of learning how to make it simple.img_7694

A lot of the time when you’re in a state of sadness you feel like there’s no way out of it. Happiness seems like gold in a bottle that’s been thrown over a cliff and smashed at the bottom of it. However, a lot of the time this is just our minds overthinking the process or trying to fight it. Instead, a moment of embracing it is a way of finding a solution.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I started this book. I have a ‘One Line a Day’ book where I write a few lines each day (so I can see what I was doing on the same day the year before); however, I hadn’t actually read anything that used this concept. At first, it was all about getting into the habit of reading it right before I got up every morning. I think this is a good way to use it because it sets you up for the day with positive thinking.

There are times in this book when I feel like the writing is a little cliche. I can be a bit of a cynic sometimes and I’m getting a lot better at being positive, but sometimes I feel like it’s almost too positive, bordering on cringey. Perhaps that says more about me than the book itself, but maybe my views will change as I continue to read it.

Despite this, some of the content is actually useful. It reminded me of things that I often forget – that I am free and have power over what I do and what I feel; that there is a connection and a sameness to all our days although we are different people. One particular day I liked was the focus on creating a personal happiness list. It suggested writing a list of the things that make you feel like you could hug the world and then turning to these things in moments of need. It’s one of those things that seems obvious but we often forget. When I feel upset I automatically retreat or cry or listen to sad music, but instead I should think of all the things I enjoy and push myself out of it. Music is something that has always helped me through things and yet sometimes I forget that it’s there when I’m not feeling myself. I need to create more time in my day for jamming out to my favourite tunes because it always boosts my mood.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else this book has to offer over the course of the next year. Although it isn’t normally my kind of read, I think it’s good to read something different every now and again. New insight into the world and new insight into your mind.

‘Wonder’ [Film Review]

Image result for wonder filmA few years ago I read the book ‘Wonder’ by R.J. Palacio and from what I remember (which is not much), it was really good. As soon as I heard the film was being released I couldn’t wait to see it! Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to watch it in the cinema but when it popped up on Netflix I was pretty thrilled.

To give a brief overview, the film is about a boy called Auggie who has Treacher Collins Syndrome, which causes him to have facial deformities. After being homeschooled his whole life, he eventually goes out to school for the first time, facing both his own fears and the judgement of other kids.

All I can say without ruining the film too much is that it is so good but so heart-breaking. The kid who plays Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) I recognised from the film ‘Room’ and he is an amazing actor for his age. I really felt so connected to Auggie in his journey through school – perhaps because I’d read the book too – and every time something bad happened I just wanted him to be real so I could hug him and tell him how awesome he is.

I loved the visuals for the film also – the way they used the astronaut hat as the central point of appearance really emphasised how having facial deformities makes someone want to hide or become something else. When Auggie said he was ugly I honestly broke down. Something about seeing a child in pain really hurts.

I would say that this is definitely up there as one of the saddest films I’ve ever seen, if not the saddest. I literally sobbed the whole way through it. However, I still loved it because it is such an important movie and there were many moments where I could see how much the characters really cared for each other and it was just so lovely. It really did make me wonder what it’s like to be in the position of Auggie – far removed from myself and yet both so very much human.

Image result for wonder film

‘A Monster Calls’ Play in London!

At the weekend I went to see the play of ‘A Monster Calls’ at The Old Vic Theatre in London and I was mega hyped! I am a huge fan of the book and the film, so it was only necessary that I go to see the play too. You could say my expectations were already pretty high considering all this, but the play was absolutely outstanding! The best I’ve seen (not that I’ve seen that many, but still).Image result for a monster calls play

What I love most about ‘A Monster Calls’ is the concept of the monster and how it represents the internalised struggle of Conor – a 13 year old kid who is dealing with bullying and a mother with cancer. It’s already a very sensitive topic and so watching it live in front of me was beyond emotional. The acting (of Conor especially) was insanely good and I know this because I literally felt it all. Plays and theatre in general often get to me a lot because I just really admire it – the way actors and actresses can pull off lives of made up characters so realistically – and it somehow feels close to home. But ‘A Monster Calls’ took this to a whole new level and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one in the audience sobbing. But what was interesting was watching the face of the actor who played Conor at the end of the play. It ended on a very intense last scene and the fact that he could barely smile when bowing to the audience showed how much he was zoned into that role and how much it can really affect you – to take over someone else’s emotions like that. It’s just so incredible.

I loved how the staging was so simple. They used chairs and music to change scenes and it was surprisingly effective. I liked that the music was live and that you could see the musicians too. Of course, this was necessary so that they could keep in time with the actors, but it was nice to give them recognition. Especially since I thought the music played a huge part in the emotional effect.

When I watch plays (as you can already tell) I tend to start analysing them, but it’s not in a bad way at all! I just love thinking about the ways the director interpreted certain scenes to display particular emotions more effectively. One part which I found really clever was when the monster danced with the mother to portray how the monster was trying to heal her. The dance was tranquil and to slow music and yet ironically the healing of the mother wasn’t so peaceful. It is scenes like this that really reflect the conflicting state of mind when dealing with illness and mental health.

Image result for a monster calls play

I thought overall, the use of ropes for the monster was such a fantastic idea! It was crazy how they not only had to act, but climb up the ropes and some of them even sing. It made me think how being in charge of casting must be a pretty cool job. You’d read the script and watch all these auditions and it must be amazing when you find the right person and you’re like ‘oh my god that’s the one’. It must be a great feeling.

Overall, I would rate ‘A Monster Calls’ 5 stars because it somehow managed to exceed my very high expectations. I think it’s only in theatre for another week so if you want to go out and see it you’ve got to be quick! But it will 100% be worth it!