Wednesday, 28 August 2013

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks

Hardcover, 342 pages
Published September 12th 2006 by Crown (first published 2006)
ISBN 0307346609 (ISBN13: 9780307346605)

A really long blurb:
"The Zombie War came unthinkably close to eradicating humanity. Max Brooks, driven by the urgency of preserving the acid-etched first-hand experiences of the survivors from those apocalyptic years, traveled across the United States of America and throughout the world, from decimated cities that once teemed with upwards of thirty million souls to the most remote and inhospitable areas of the planet. He recorded the testimony of men, women, and sometimes children who came face-to-face with the living, or at least the undead, hell of that dreadful time. World War Z is the result. Never before have we had access to a document that so powerfully conveys the depth of fear and horror, and also the ineradicable spirit of resistance, that gripped human society through the plague years.

Ranging from the now infamous village of New Dachang in the United Federation of China, where the epidemiological trail began with the twelve-year-old Patient Zero, to the unnamed northern forests where untold numbers sought a terrible and temporary refuge in the cold, to the United States of Southern Africa, where the Redeker Plan provided hope for humanity at an unspeakable price, to the west-of-the-Rockies redoubt where the North American tide finally started to turn, this invaluable chronicle reflects the full scope and duration of the Zombie War.

Most of all, the book captures with haunting immediacy the human dimension of this epochal event. Facing the often raw and vivid nature of these personal accounts requires a degree of courage on the part of the reader, but the effort is invaluable because, as Mr. Brooks says in his introduction, “By excluding the human factor, aren’t we risking the kind of personal detachment from history that may, heaven forbid, lead us one day to repeat it? And in the end, isn’t the human factor the only true difference between us and the enemy we now refer to as ‘the living dead’?”

Note: Some of the numerical and factual material contained in this edition was previously published under the auspices of the United Nations Postwar Commission."

This is a brilliant book, whether or not you are interested in zombie stories. It was really interesting to read it as a social, political and economic assessment of what could happen if there was another world war, particularly when there was an interview with a character about North Korea's reaction to the war. It really made me think about what would happen to the world if suddenly society as we know it broke down and we were forced to survive by ourselves again. In particular, there is a section about America having to retrain the majority of its population as so many people are in service focused jobs which are useless in terms of living off the land.

The stories were sad, engaging, sometimes tense and often thought-provoking. Occasionally I'd find myself tapping my feet, willing them to run faster! However, often I wanted to know more about what happened during the rest of their fight against the zombies as the characters stories would focus on specific incidents but left me wanting more at times.

I really enjoyed this book but often wanted to know more about the characters and sometimes found it hard to keep track of where the character was and remember their back-story. Especially as at the end some of the characters were revisited but a couple I didn't remember at all until I searched back through the book. Thanks to Josh for lending it to me :)

8 out of 10

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Paperback, 387 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Puffin (first published January 3rd 2012)
ISBN 0141340134 (ISBN13: 9780141340135)
I received a proof copy of this while interning at Penguin.

Blurb: "Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl.

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future."

This is a great new take on the classic fairytale of Cinderella. I was looking forward to reading this for ages after seeing all the great reviews on goodreads. Now I can't wait to read the next book in the series, Scarlet!

In this version of the tale, Cinder is a lowly mechanic who has been forced even lower on the rungs of society by a mysterious accident which meant that she was made into a cyborg in order to survive. In particular, she has an entirely metal leg which requires a new foot - cue Cinderella link. I felt that this could partly be a critique on how disability is treated by society as the cyborgs are mistreated and are not really viewed as real people but as property which must be owned by their families.

A key component of the story, is a deadly disease which is attacking the human population causing scientists to search ever more desperately for the cure. Even experimenting on people, especially cyborgs, even though they know it will almost certainly result in death for the person. When the ruler of the New Beijing contracts it the search becomes even more frantic, especially due to the growing threat from the Lunar ruler who wants to rule Earth too and subject it to her tyranny.

There are a lot of sub-plots going on in this novel which I don't want to give away, but I felt that some of them needed more development, particularly with regards to the Lunar people.

However, I really liked the characters who were well-developed and even if you did not like their decisions I found that I could empathise with them... although it was hard to empathise with the step-mother and Lunar Queen. Linh Cinder was a really interesting character and I liked her robot Iko. Her step-sisters were complete contrasts to each other which created an interesting dynamic in their household. Prince Kai was also well developed in terms of his personality and his reaction to his obligations and the conflict he feels over his developing feelings.

This novel was inventive, fresh and exciting and I can't wait to find out what happens next!

9 out of 10

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Les Misérables by Victor Hugo

Paperback, Movie Tie-In Edition, 1232 pages
Published December 4th 2012 by Penguin Books (first published 1862)
ISBN 0143123599 (ISBN13: 9780143123590)
I received a free copy while interning at Penguin.

Blurb: "Now a major motion picure, adapted from the acclaimed Broadway musical, starring Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried, and Sacha Baron Cohen

Victor Hugo’s tale of injustice, heroism and love follows the fortunes of Jean Valjean, an escaped convict determined to put his criminal past behind him. But his attempts to become a respected member of the community are constantly put under threat: by his own conscience, when, owing to a case of mistaken identity, another man is arrested in his place; and by the relentless investigations of the dogged policeman Javert. It is not simply for himself that Valjean must stay free, however, for he has sworn to protect the baby daughter of Fantine, driven to prostitution by poverty. A compelling and compassionate view of the victims of early nineteenth-century French society, Les Misérables is a novel on an epic scale, moving inexorably from the eve of the battle of Waterloo to the July Revolution of 1830.

This striking edition features the widely celebrated and eminently readable translation by Norman Denny."

Victor Hugo was an extremely dedicated writer I have to say as this novel is immense in its epic-ness. This is a brilliant novel but I wish Hugo had been more keen on editing and being succinct! The first 75 pages or so tell you about the life of the bishop who rescues Jean Valjean and by the end of that section I had an idea of how the novel would continue. Hugo was eager to describe every aspect of the story he had conceived in his head based around the revolutions in Paris in the early nineteenth century, even if it wasn't necessary to the main story. I will admit that this resulted in me skim reading a couple of sections of the novel as it just wasn't relevant to the events taking place in the story. The translator even recommends in his introduction for readers to skip most of the section on Waterloo unless they have a particular interest in it as it isn't important. I would also recommend skimming the description of the convent and the nuns' practices and the history of Paris' sewers and they just are not necessary to the story. Hugo's talent for description is amazing though, even if he did get carried away at times. However, it is really interesting to give insight into life at this time, even if Hugo did not actually live during the period.

The characters are so believable and complete in their personalities, thought-processes and their backgrounds it's incredible. My favourite character is probably Gavroche, the urchin of Paris and unwanted son of the Thénardiers, who roams his city with irrepressible optimism and generosity. I loved when the story focused on him as he is a character that makes you want to be a better person.

Of course, Jean Valjean also has that effect. His self-sacrifice and determination to redeem himself is amazing. I want to say more about him, but I don't have the talent to describe him as Hugo has done.

Javert is also a really interesting character with his unshakeable belief in the justice of the law, regardless of any other circumstances. Fantine's story is heart-breaking as everyone will know if they have seen the musical.

I found Marius to be frustrating at times with his preoccupation with himself. His story varies quite significantly with the portrayal in the musical and film as he is not particularly involved in revolutionary preparations until he joins the barricade. However, the story of his relationship with his grandfather is really moving as it progresses, as a commentary on age and how youth can be eager to move on too soon. Marius' protectiveness of Cosette may be representative of how men viewed ladies at the time but the combination of this and Hugo's portrayal of Cosette as not particularly intelligent was a little frustrating.

The Thénardiers have a bigger family than you realise from the film. In addition to Eponine and Gavroche they have another daughter and two sons who they give away as they are not useful to them. They are just as cunning and malicious as the musical depicts but they do have a certain loyalty to each other and other criminals that in a strange way improves their characters. Eponine's story is also really sad, but her determination and attitude was almost inspiring.

Victor Hugo expertly interweaves the separate characters' storylines to reach the epic conclusion of the revolution and its devastating aftermath. The novel is split into five sections, each with chapters which are subdivided into separate parts which makes it a little easier to break the novel up a bit.

Victor Hugo's title of Les Misérables, or The Wretched, is very apt as very little of a positive nature happens in the novel. Despite this, it is uplifting and really moving and I loved the story. The only aspect which brings the novel down from a perfect 10 are the massive tangents which Hugo wanders down (and carries on and on and on) while telling the story.

9 out of 10

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Billy and Me by Giovanna Fletcher

402 pages
Published May 23rd 2013 by Michael Joseph (Penguin UK)
ISBN 139781405909952

Blurb: "Sophie May has a secret.

One that she’s successfully kept for years. It’s meant that she’s had to give up her dreams of going to university and travelling the world to stay in her little village, living with her mum and working in the local teashop.

But then she meets the gorgeous Billy – an actor with ambitions to make it to the top. And when they fall in love, Sophie is whisked away from the comfort of her life into Billy’s glamorous – but ruthless – world.

Their relationship throws Sophie right into the spotlight after years of shying away from attention. Can she handle the constant scrutiny that comes with being with Billy? And most of all, is she ready for her secret heartbreak to be discovered and shared with the nation?"

This is the debut novel by Giovanna Fletcher who recently married Tom from the band McFly. This is probably an example of an author writing about life as they know it, but even if it is all credit should go to Giovanna as it is a really sweet novel about the difficulties of a relationship between a "civilian" with a mysterious secret past and someone who is constantly in the limelight.

I'm a bit divided about what to write about this as I remember really enjoying Billy and Me while I was reading it, but when I came to write this review (admittedly a couple of months later) I couldn't remember what made me so excited about it... or what her big secret was which is a bit of an issue.

However, the characters were really well developed and I was definitely rooting for them and for everything to work out although I felt some of the key points were a little bit rushed. The author built tension well at points where the couple were struggling with their different backgrounds.

An enjoyable novel, I'll look forward to her next offering (and to re-reading this one)!

7 out of 10

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Marley and Me: Life and Love with the World's Worst Dog by John Grogan

Paperback, 340 pages
Published 2008 by Hodder and Stoughton Ltd. (first published October 18th 2005)
ISBN 0340922109 (ISBN13: 9780340922101)

Blurb: "John and Jenny were young and deeply in love, with a perfect little house and not a care in the world. Then they brought home Marley, a wiggly yellow furball of a puppy. Life would never be the same.

Marley quickly grew into an uncontrollable ninety-seven pound steamroller of a Labrador retriever. Expelled from obedience school, even the tranquillisers prescribed by the vet couldn't stop him.

Yet through the chaos and the hilarity he won hearts and remained a steadfast model of devotion to his family, even when they were at their wits' end. Unconditional love, they would learn, comes in many forms."

This book is an example of why I both really would love a pet dog and why I'm reluctant to get one. Marley is an absolutely mental but completely loveable dog (nice paradox there). The trouble he causes his family with ruined furniture, walls and eaten food and objects can only be negated by the unconditional love and loyalty which he shows them in his eventful life. He was even chosen to star in a film as a typical family pet - I might watch it someday if it was transferred to DVD format.

This book made me laugh uncontrollably at times and, when it came to the end, shed tears for his loss. This book particularly resonated with me as my family had a mental dog like Marley for a year or so. Millie was completely untrainable, stealing my brother's socks while he was still wearing them and jumping up to open doors, but she was a brilliant dog and very loving, like Marley.

Having seen the film first I thought that it was translated well from the novel, with some artistic license.

An enjoyable book for all dog-lovers.

6 out of 10 :)

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

Hardcover, 424 pages
Published April 1st 2011 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published March 1st 2011)
ISBN 1444724533 (ISBN13: 9781444724530)

Massive blurb:
"Zoe Baxter has spent ten years trying to get pregnant, and after multiple miscarriages and infertility issues, it looks like her dream is about to come true – she is seven months pregnant. But a terrible turn of events leads to a nightmare – one that takes away the baby she has already fallen for; and breaks apart her marriage to Max. In the aftermath, she throws herself into her career as a music therapist – using music clinically to soothe burn victims in a hospital; to help Alzheimer’s patients connect with the present; to provide solace for hospice patients. When Vanessa – a guidance counselor -- asks her to work with a suicidal teen, their relationship moves from business to friendship and then, to Zoe’s surprise, blossoms into love. When Zoe allows herself to start thinking of having a family, again, she remembers that there are still frozen embryos that were never used by herself and Max.

Meanwhile, Max has found peace at the bottom of a bottle – until he is redeemed by an evangelical church, whose charismatic pastor – Clive Lincoln – has vowed to fight the “homosexual agenda” that has threatened traditional family values in America. But this mission becomes personal for Max, when Zoe and her same-sex partner say they want permission to raise his unborn child.

SING YOU HOME explores what it means to be gay in today’s world, and how reproductive science has outstripped the legal system. Are embryos people or property? What challenges do same-sex couples face when it comes to marriage and adoption? What happens when religion and sexual orientation – two issues that are supposed to be justice-blind – enter the courtroom? And most importantly, what constitutes a “traditional family” in today’s day and age?"

I have read quite a few of Jodi Picoult's novels now and yet again in this one she attacks a number of controversial topics in her novel.

This novel deals with both the rights of people in homosexual relationships, including how they are discriminated against by society (in this case in America), and the issue of who can gain custody of fertilised embryos after a marriage has ended.

I found Max, the ex-husband, to be a very frustrating character when reading from his point of view. He was very hypocritical and open to persuasion by anyone, and didn't have the guts to do what he thought was best for most of the novel. He is an alcoholic who converts to an evangelical church which is strongly against gay relationships and marriages. So when his ex-wife falls in love with and marries another woman he doesn't react well when they want to use the embryos to have a child together. The author definitely gives a balanced argument between the two sides.

The novel also deals with fertility issues and the devastating emotions associated with failed IVF treatments and miscarriage. These sections of the novel are very moving.

I can't say that I particularly enjoyed this book as some of the opinions were difficult to read and I am becoming a little disinterested by Jodi Picoult's slightly formulaic style of novel writing, after so many books dealing with controversial topics. That being said, it is still a very well written book.

This book also has a soundtrack that goes with it which I haven't heard yet as they had run out of copies when I received my copy of the book at an event where the author was speaking. I did manage to get the book signed though and I heard a couple of the songs live! Jodi Picoult definitely comes across as an intelligent, very caring lady which was nice to see!

This was an interesting novel which deals with very real, contemporary issues.

7 out of 10.

Monday, 22 July 2013

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

Paperback, 387 pages
Published February 16th 2012 by Bantam Press (first published October 31st 2011)
ISBN 0593059824 (ISBN13: 9780593059821)

Blurb: "I've lost it. :( The only thing in the world I wasn't supposed to lose. My engagement ring. It's been in Magnus's family for three generations. And now, the very same day his parents are coming, I've lost it. The very same day. Do not hyperventilate, Poppy. Stay positive!! :)

A couple of glasses of bubbly with the girls at a charity do and Poppy's life has gone into meltdown. Not only has she lost her engagement ring, but in the panic that followed, she's lost her phone too. As she paces shakily round the hotel foyer she spots an abandoned phone in a bin. Finders keepers! Now she can leave a number with the hotel staff. It was meant to be!

Except the phone's owner, businessman Sam Roxton, doesn't agree. He wants his phone back, and doesn't appreciate Poppy reading all his messages and wading into his personal life. As Poppy juggles wedding preparations, phone messages and hiding her left hand from Magnus and his parents, can things get any more tangled?"

Sophie Kinsella's books never fail to make me laugh and this is no exception!

Poppy is a great character, who I related to really well although sometimes her actions were a bit extreme and bordering on the ridiculous. Having taken the random phone and offering to forward messages to Sam (the owner of the phone) while she waits to find her ring, she starts taking matters in his life into her own hands. While this is funny it also kind of annoyed me as in real life that would never be acceptable behaviour. However, this is the only thing that I can critique the novel on. The conversations between Sam and Poppy were definitely my favourite parts of the novel.

This is a lovely, light-hearted read which is really good fun. Be warned you will probably laugh out loud causing weird looks to head your way!

9 out of 10

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Paperback, 272 pages
Published February 28th 2013 by HarperCollins Publishers (first published January 1st 2005)
ISBN 0007523165 (ISBN13: 9780007523160)

"Before. Miles "Pudge" Halter's whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the "Great Perhaps" (François Rabelais, poet) even more. Then he heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

After. Nothing is ever the same."

It took me a while to get into this novel as it was not what I was expecting, the style of the novel being very different to John Green's The Fault in Our Stars. In fact, it actually reminded me of The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (which I will review at some point!) in terms of the personality of the main character and the writing style.

This novel is about a group of misfits at boarding school in America. In forming close friendships they get drunk together and try to come up with the best prank their school has ever seen. I felt that at times Pudge was pressured by his friends into keeping up with them, however, it did not feel too negative but rather that they were broadening his horizons.

Pudge becomes friends with the Commander and Alaska - the most beautiful, smart and crazy girl he's ever met - until she unexpectedly leaves the school (can't tell you how or why) and her friends are left to deal with her absence and the guilt they feel over the events leading up to this.

I can't say any more without revealing big events in the plot so I have to leave it at that. However, I will say that this book is moving and insightful. It was a really interesting read - particularly reading the last words of famous people (Pudge's strange hobby) - which I enjoyed a lot.

8 out of 10.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

The First Last Kiss by Ali Harris

Paperback, 496 pages
Published January 17th 2013 by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0857202936 (ISBN13: 9780857202932)

Blurb: "How do you hold on to a love that is slowly slipping away from you?
Can you let go of the past when you know what is in the future?
And how do you cope when you know that every kiss is a countdown to goodbye?

This is the story of a love affair, of Ryan and Molly and how they fell in love and were torn apart. The first time Molly kissed Ryan, she knew they'd be together forever. Six years and thousands of kisses later she's married to the man she loves. But today, when Ryan kisses her, Molly realises how many of them she wasted because the future holds something which neither of them could have ever predicted…"

I ended up really enjoying this book, however I was initially put off by the way in which the story jumps around, and to be honest I'm still unsure as to the order of some events in the story.

The story flicks back and forth between the present, where Molly is moving house, and variuos different points in her relationship with Ryan. Which would be fine except the parts in the past are not in chronological order but swap illogically between late and early in their story. Admittedly, they do put dates at the beginning of each chapter which rewind or fast forward signs but I still found it quite confusing. I usually don't mind time changes, but I do like them to be in order!

The main characters were likeable, on the whole, and were well-developed. Although Molly's inner-younger-voice which kept telling her that she was settling for less than she had planned was annoying at times.

Once the story was more established and I had figured out what was going on, the story was lovely and moving and seemed to reflect really well the turns a relationship and lives lived together can take.

Also, I love the cover design!

6.5 out of 10.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Lost Souls by Poppy Z. Brite

Paperback, 384 pages
Published by Penguin

Blurb: "At a club in Missing Mile, N.C., the children of the night gather, dressed in black, looking for acceptance. Among them are Ghost, who sees what others do not. Ann, longing for love, and Jason, whose real name is Nothing, newly awakened to an ancient, deathless truth about his father, and himself.

Others are coming to Missing Mile tonight. Three beautiful, hip vagabonds - Molochai, Twig, and the seductive Zillah (whose eyes are as green as limes) are on their own lost journey; slaking their ancient thirst for blood, looking for supple young flesh.

They find it in Nothing and Ann, leading them on a mad, illicit road trip south to New Orleans. Over miles of dark highway, Ghost pursues, his powers guiding him on a journey to reach his destiny, to save Ann from her new companions, to save Nothing from himself..."

So, I'm back, after another long gap in reviewing, but don't worry the reading did not stop! Unfortunately, one of the books I read in the interim was this...

This was a very strange, dark and twisted book. The synopsis makes it seem interesting, but it does not warn you that all of the characters have serious issues. Strangely, it also doesn't mention a couple of key characters (although I suppose they are limited for space in a blurb). So there is also Steve who is Ghost's best friend and Ann's ex-boyfriend, and Christian, who is the oldest vampire in the novel and who knows secrets about Nothing's past.

The only character who is even vaguely likeable in this novel is Ghost, who is some form of psychic, who is thoughtful and loyal to his friends. However, even he has a violent side. Everyone else in the novel has serious issues, and I found it difficult to relate to their actions which were extreme, and were awful - no matter how isolated they were feeling.

I don't want to go into specifics in case anyone actually wants to read this. However, this whole novel revolves around drugs, sex and murder. Most of the characters are bisexual but there are only a couple of instances of heterosexual sex in the novel and one of these was rape. The novel continues with more sex - including male group sex and incest - and blood-drinking (complete with gory descriptions which is fair enough) and murder.

Despite all this, I will admit there were times where the prose was well-written and had good descriptions. However, it took me weeks to read this and I do not recommend it. Although the concept in the book that vampires were born and not made was interesting. I only continued because I hate not finishing a book!

2 out of 10.

Friday, 29 March 2013

The Farm by Emily McKay

Paperback, 420 pages
Published November 21st 2012 by Penguin Books

ISBN 1405909250 (ISBN13: 9781405909259)

Blurb: “For Lily and her twin sister, Mel, there is only the Farm . . .

It's a prison, a blood bank, a death camp - where fear and paranoia rule. But it's also home, of sorts. Because beyond the electric fence awaits a fate much, much worse.

But Lily has a plan.

She and Mel are going to escape - into the ravaged land outside, a place of freedom and chaos and horrors. Except Lily hasn't reckoned on two things: first, her sister's ability to control the horrors; and, secondly, on those out there who desperately want to find and control Mel.

Mel's growing power might save the world, or utterly end it. But only Lily can protect Mel from what is to come...

The Farm takes you into a terrifying future where civilization has ended, and leaves you there - fearful, gasping and begging to escape.”

I do love a good dystopian thriller so I was very excited to start reading this one. This one was really good but just fell short of amazing. I thought the idea was really clever but I have to admit that the presence of vampires in the story threw me a little. I don’t know why really as I’m usually enthusiastic for a good vampire story. I suppose it was mainly because there had been no mention in the blurb of vampires that it caught me by surprise. There was a different blurb on the back of my copy of the book which seemed to suggest zombies rather than accidentally (maybe) genetically engineered humans. Also, I was a little confused as to why the humans accepted having their blood taken to satisfy the Ticks when they knew they were mindless savages. However, the politics of the vampires definitely helped to explain many events in the book. The ticks seemed scary and the author successfully created tense moments

I really liked Lily as a character, mostly due to her determination to keep her autistic sister, Mel, safe in their dangerous new world. Although her continuous list of ‘if’ plans were a little annoying…

However, there are quite a lot of inconsistencies and the strange plot twists were sometimes unnecessary.

Carter was a great character and I could completely understand why he kept Lily in the dark about the truth until later in the book.

Joe and McKenna were an interesting addition to the book and showed how such dramatic events can change people and how people are not always as they appear to the outside world.

The chapters which were from Mel’s point of view were interesting observations. I don’t know how accurate the style is but it was really beautiful and mysterious and I liked that this portrayed autism in a positive light.

There is probably more to be said about this book, but yet again I have left it a few weeks to write this as I have been busy, so I can’t remember everything I thought about it at the time.

Despite all of its flaws the book was still enjoyable and I definitely cared a lot about the characters. I just think the author overcomplicated the whole thing. 7 out of 10.

Sorry I haven't posted recently by the way, I've been really busy! I just checked on goodreads though and I've realised that I have read twenty books since this one - I don't know how I'm going to catch up with my reviews! I'm definitely going to try to post more often anyway :)

Thursday, 28 February 2013

Glamour by Penelope Fletcher

Kindle Edition, 2nd Edition, 205 pages
Published October 7th 2010 by Poison Princess (first published October 1st 2010)

Blurb: “Rae Wilder has problems. Supernatural creatures swarm the earth, and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Stalked by a handsome fairy who claims she is like him, demonkind, Rae thinks maybe it was a mistake breaking the rules by going over the Wall into demon territory. Plunged into a world of dark magics, fierce creatures, and ritual sacrifice, she is charged with a guarding a magical amulet. The changes to her mind and body are startling, but rather than accept her purpose she struggles against who she is destined to be. Throw in a big lust for a vampire who can't keep his hands off her, and life starts to get complicated. Rae is forced to make the ultimate choice: to live and die human, or embrace her birth-right and wield magics that could turn her into something wicked, a force of nature nothing can control.”

It has been a while since I finished this book and I can’t remember hugely well what I thought of it, which already tells us something.

I will admit that I mostly downloaded the book because I thought the cover was pretty and because it was free. It turned out to be quite an enjoyable read. Some of the writing is a little bit off and could do with editing but the characters were quite engaging and the story had some tension and drama to it. I am still tempted to read the next one as I do want to know what happens next but I think the story needs a lot more development to reach its potential. I really like the idea behind the story but it needs more added to it and for many more questions to be answered.

Also, I have to admit that Rae gets on my nerves a bit – she’s just a bit wimpy considering she has just found out that she has magical powers and the potential to be really powerful and make a difference in the post-apocalyptic world. Hopefully in the next book she will get more of a grip and embrace a bit of girl-power!

It’s enjoyable if you like magic and a multitude of mythical creatures turning up (which I usually do). There is also a bit of a love triangle forming which could be interesting although the concept is becoming a bit jaded for me…

6 out of 10.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Blog Tour: Falling for You by Heather Thurmeier. Review, extras and giveaway

Paperback, 242 pages
Published August 20th 2012 by Crimson Romance
ISBN 1440552045 (ISBN13: 9781440552045)
Disclaimer: I was sent a free copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Falling for You blurb:
Newly single Cassidy Quinn is thrilled to be a contestant on the new reality dating show The One. But her excitement turns to horror when the gorgeous bachelor turns out to be her ex-boyfriend. Seeing Brad again makes Cassidy realize she might not be as “over him” as she thought—and then she meets hunky cameraman Evan Burke.

After watching his brother lose his wife in a tragic accident, Evan vows never to fall in love. But following Cassidy around as her personal cameraman makes him question his decision, and resisting her gets harder with every sunbathing, bikini-wearing day.

Cassidy and Evan begin a forbidden affair while her ex-boyfriend tries to win her heart back one groping, awkward moment at a time. If Cassidy can manage to stop falling off horses (literally), stop falling onto her ex-boyfriend, the bachelor (yes, literally), and stop falling in love with backstage playboy Evan, she might still make it through the show without becoming a tabloid sensation.
But soon Cassidy must choose between the ex who broke her heart and the cameraman who might never love her back. For Cassidy, this reality show just got real.

My thoughts:
Firstly, I want to warn readers before they get any further that this book contains mature content of a romantic nature, it is of a far more discreet level than the likes of Fifty Shades of Grey (which I haven’t actually read) or Bared to You, but I thought I would mention it before anybody gets upset.

Now that that’s out of the way I can say that I enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. It was such a fun read! I’m not a fan of a reality TV in general and find it hard to understand why people would want to be involved in it, but I can understand in this that Cassidy wants to try something new and to have an adventure – it definitely puts her in situations she is not used to. She’s a really interesting character; I’d like to be friends with her, although I would have to fight her for Evan who is definitely swoon-worthy and worth breaking the rules over! I fell in love with him a little bit; Thurmeier writes great descriptions and the story is quite well written so you grow to love and hate the main characters depending on their actions. I found it to be easy to read and I got into the story really quickly; the author had a nicely flowing, effortless style. My only problem was that I did not see the appeal of Brad at all. The author mentions that he can be sweet but I just didn’t notice all that much of that.

The romantic parts of the book are lovely and Thurmeier builds the tension between Cassidy and Evan really well. The scenes as part of the TV show are funny and add to the tension between the characters. I’m definitely looking forward to the next book in the series, Stuck on You, which follows a lovely character from this story in another reality TV show. I definitely recommend this, 7 out of 10 from me.

I chose this excerpt from the book because it shows some of the drama and comedy:

“I don’t know about you girls,” Zoe said, “but I definitely think there are more hot men here than just the bachelor we’re all fighting for.”
“What are you talking about?” Holly asked. “Brad is super-hot. Like hawt.”
“Yeah I know, but you can’t honestly say you haven’t noticed the guys following us around, right?” Zoe nodded her head in the general direction of the cameramen surrounding the pool a few feet back.
“Zoe, you know they can still hear us in here,” Erica whispered.
Cassidy opened her eyes at the talk of cameramen. What is Zoe up to now?
“I know they can hear us, moron. That’s the point.” Zoe propped herself up on the edge of the hot tub on her forearms, forcing her breasts to jut out in front of her. “And I’m hoping one particular cameraman likes what he hears…and sees.”
Cassidy’s jaw dropped into the hot water as she realized Zoe was not only being overtly sexual, again, but this time it was projected directly at Evan. Her Evan.
Back off bi-otch. Six, seven, eight… Just relax. Keep your mouth shut. This is none of your business.
“You know we can’t do anything with the crew,” Erica said. “It said so on one of those forms we signed.”
“I know that,” Zoe huffed, “but that doesn’t mean I can’t have a little fun while I’m waiting around for the finale, does it? Besides, someone needs to give America something good to watch. You girls certainly aren’t helping the ratings.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “So you’re going to screw around with the crew to help ratings?”
“Oh relax, girls. It’s not like I’m going to sleep with him or anything.” Zoe smirked. “Just a little harmless flirting, that’s all. Unless of course, someone else already has her eyes on him?”
Cassidy locked eyes with Zoe.
Is she implying there’s something going on with me and Evan? Why would she think that? Just because I want to jump him every time I’m near him doesn’t mean I have a thing for him. I can’t help it if my mind goes to dirty places when he’s around. I’ve never acted on one of those thoughts, so what’s she getting at? It’s not like she can read my mind… Can she? No, idiot, she can’t.
Say something, she’s still staring at you.
“You can do whatever you want, right girls?” Cassidy said to the other women. “Maybe you’ll even get yourself kicked off the show.”
“They can’t kick me out for saying hello and being polite.”
I can kick you.

Author biography: Heather Thurmeier is a lover of strawberry margaritas, a hater of spiders, and a reality TV junkie. She was born and raised in the Canadian prairies, but now lives in upstate New York with her own personal romance hero (aka her husband) and their two little princesses. When she's not busy taking care of the kids and an adventurous puppy named Indy, Heather's hard at work on her next romance novel.

Follow these links to find out more:


***Heather will be offering a $20.00 AMAZON or B&N Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter throughout the tour!***

The more you comment the better your chances of winning. Here is the link for you to follow the Tour

Monday, 25 February 2013

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

Paperback, 482 pages
Published January 5th 2012 by Michael Joseph (UK) (first published December 31st 12)
ISBN 0718157834 (ISBN13: 9780718157838)

Blurb: “Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick.

What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane.

Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that.

What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.”

This book is fantastic.

I thought about leaving it there but I thought if you’re reading this then you probably want to know a bit more about it. This story is about Lou and Will. When Lou loses her job she eventually finds a new job as a companion for a man who is disabled. From the moment they meet their relationship is tense, and funny and inspiring.

This is not just a love story, it tackles a lot of issues about disability and how people are treated. The author even mentions small things about the difficulty of getting round London in a wheelchair because only a minority of the tube stations have lifts, which I had never considered before but now I can’t stop noticing how many shops have steps up into them, or how restaurants have tables so closely packed together it’s doubtful that a wheelchair could fit in there. The more I think about disability the more I think how unfair it is that as well as having to cope with their physical problems, society seems to be against them as well and it the issue just seems to be ignored most of the time.

An even bigger issue in this book is the question of euthanasia and if it is acceptable, understandable, right or wrong, if the families are cruel and heartless for helping their loved ones to die with dignity… I won’t mention my views on the subject but I think that the author deals with the issue in a really considerate manner.

I wept buckets of tears at this one, I was left a snivelling wreck… if you’re looking for something jolly this probably isn’t for you. That is not to say that the whole book is gloomy, there were lots of moments where I laughed out loud. However, it can be difficult to read about, both due to the issues that are discussed and because it can make you view yourself and your attitudes differently. I don’t want to say any more and spoil the story for you because there are so many other things that happen. The characters are fantastic and Jojo Moyes has the effortless writing ability, which can be so elusive, which draws you in to her beautiful story.

This is about finding hope in the darkest times of your life.

Just read it! 9 out of 10.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Paperback, 357 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Black Swan (first published July 2012)
ISBN 0552778095 (ISBN13: 9780552778091)

Blurb: “Recently retired, sweet, emotionally numb Harold Fry is jolted out of his passivity by a letter from Queenie Hennessy, an old friend, who he hasn't heard from in twenty years. She has written to say she is in hospice and wanted to say goodbye. Leaving his tense, bitter wife Maureen to her chores, Harold intends a quick walk to the corner mailbox to post his reply but instead, inspired by a chance encounter, he becomes convinced he must deliver his message in person to Queenie--who is 600 miles away--because as long as he keeps walking, Harold believes that Queenie will not die. So without hiking boots, rain gear, map or cell phone, one of the most endearing characters in current fiction begins his unlikely pilgrimage across the English countryside. Along the way, strangers stir up memories--flashbacks, often painful, from when his marriage was filled with promise and then not, of his inadequacy as a father, and of his shortcomings as a husband. Ironically, his wife Maureen, shocked by her husband's sudden absence, begins to long for his presence. Is it possible for Harold and Maureen to bridge the distance between them? And will Queenie be alive to see Harold arrive at her door?”

“If we don't go mad once in a while, there's no hope.”
― Rachel Joyce, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

I have been very lax recently with reviewing what I'm reading, sorry everyone! It’s a shame I didn’t have time to write a review of this immediately after I finished it, I would have a lot more to say than now!

What I remember overall is that this is such a lovely, inspiring and life-affirming story. The author evokes a connection with all the characters in the story, no matter how briefly they are part of the story – and there are a lot of small meetings as Harold travels the country – or if you even like them; Rachel Joyce has created characters that seem real. I felt like there were thousands of big and small events in their lives which made them who they are when we meet them in the story.

The idea behind the story really appealed to me as well. How often in our lives do we wish we could just get away for a while? In Harold’s case, he leaves for a very noble reason, his pilgrimage is a walk of faith that if he travels by foot all the way to Berwick-upon-Tweed(?) he will be able to save Queenie’s life and atone for the mistakes he has made in the past in his friendship with her.

The elusive son David makes you think about what happens when parents and children love each other but just can’t communicate with each other or even possibly like each other very much. I’m sure everyone has moments when they are frustrated with their families and vice versa, but I can’t imagine this level of incompatibility. Reading the way David spoke to his parents, but especially to Harold, makes me want to rant about how young people should be more respectful to their elders and mutter about kids these days, even though I’m only twenty-one – blimey I sound like a grump.

Anyway, the journey itself is beautifully described both in terms of the scenery and of Harold’s emotions as he overcomes the barriers that he meets. Meanwhile, his wife Maureen, who has been left behind, provides a sharp contrast to the new experiences that Harold is discovering and the past that he is finally coming to terms with, while she finally learns to deal with past events – I don’t want to spoil it! – from the home where it has been ignored for so long.

The only part of the book that I didn’t really like, but still felt realistic, was when Harold’s pilgrimage became high jacked by people who were much more concerned with their own lives and the possibility of media attention than the fact that Harold just wanted to complete his walk and didn’t want or need their interference. Again I could probably rant here about the media but I’ll keep this focussed on the book! The stories of random generosity were inspiring and made me think about how I should do more to help others, not just myself or the people I know.

This is such a moving story and I will admit to shedding a few tears but it really leaves you with a sense of hope and warmth. This is not just about a walk, it’s about life and all of its sorrow and joy, and how it’s not perfect but we’re united in being human and trying to deal with it all. This book is basically just really lovely and thought-provoking, 8 out of 10.

Falling for You Giveaway

So I'm going to be reviewing Falling for You by Heather Thurmeier as a host for Tasty Book Tours. They are hosting a number of tours at the moment so go have a look at their website.

As part of the tour, Heather will be offering a $20.00 AMAZON/or B&N Gift Card to a randomly drawn commenter throughout the tour. So make sure to enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Don't forget to come back on the 26th February to read my review!

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Salem Witch Society by K. N. Shields

Published September 1st 2012 by Little, Brown Book Group
ISBN 0751549533 (ISBN13: 9780751549539)

Synopsis: "Two hundred years after the Salem witch trials, a grisly new witch hunt is beginning.

Salem, New England, many dark nights ago. It is a time of spells and shadows, of black magic and blood. And the most famous witch hunt in history is about to begin...

Years later, a young woman is found savagely murdered, a pitchfork thrust through her neck, her body arranged in the shape of a star: the death pose of a witch. Someone - or something - is reviving the terror of the notorious Salem Witch hunts. And only one man - a brilliant, eccentric loner with a dazzling mind and a fascination with witchcraft - can keep the evils of the past at bay.

Rich in history, mystery, and witchcraft, THE SALEM WITCH SOCIETY is a twisting, terrifying thriller - a dark fairy tale for readers who loved A Discovery of Witches and The Interpretation of Murder."

This book wasn't what I expected it to be, although, looking back at the blurb, it does cover everything that it said it would. However it definitely wasn't any sort of fairy tale. At its heart, this is a crime novel where the main characters try to solve a string of murders that seem to have links to witchcraft prosecution.

The main characters were well developed, and I really like the relationship between Perceval Grey and Archie Lean, their conversations sometimes made me chuckle out loud. However the other characters that they came across were not always very clearly defined, which made it difficult to keep track of who they all were.

The investigation aspect of the book was good but again sometimes became confusing, with all of the threads they were following, referring to people that I had forgotten about, and strange references that didn't make any sense to me. I thought the author had over complicated it all really. I appreciate that they wanted to throw in red herrings and false trails, but this bordered on ridiculous at times. The motives behind the murderer also seemed realyl flawed to me and I don't know if that was a deliberate technique to make them look crazy or if the author him/herself got confused confused as to why they were doing it.

I also thought that the witchcraft in the book would be used in different ways, however it is portrayed in such a negative, clinical way that I just didn't really like. Considering how much the Salem Witch Trials are talked about in the book, the author just didn't make them seem real to me, which is ridiculous because that is pretty much the only thing in the book based on reality.

It's a shame really that it wasn't better written overall because the last quarter or so of the book was really good, the author built up the tension really well and it became much more thrilling. I think that this book needed a lot more editing done to it to smooth over the cracks in the story and to make it as fantastic as it could have been, because the idea behind the story was really interesting.

I am going to give it 5 out of 10 because there were moments when it was really good but it needed a lot more detail in places and less detail in others. I probably won't be reading this again.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Angels' Blood by Nalini Singh

Mass Market Paperback, 339 pages
Published February 11th 2010 by Gollancz (first published March 3rd 2009)
ISBN 0575095725 (ISBN13: 9780575095724)

Blurb: "Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux knows she is the best- but she does not know if even she is good enough for this job. Hired by the dangerously beautiful archangel Raphael, a being so lethal that no mortal wants his attention, Elena knows failure is not an option—even if the task is impossible.

Because this time, it's not a wayward vamp she has to track. It's an archangel gone bad.

The job will put Elena in the midst of a killing spree like no other—and pull her to the razor's edge of passion. Even if the hunt does not destroy her, succumbing to Raphael’s seductive touch just might. For when archangels play, mortals break."

First of all, I would like to thank Rachel at The One With Rachel's Book blog for lending this to me! Does anyone else swap books they love with their friends? If I love a book, I immediately want everyone I know to read it and enjoy it too. Anyway, this will just be a quick review as Rachel explains it brilliantly in her review!

I really enjoyed this book. Elena is pretty kick-ass and seems to have an interesting history that I think will be gradually revealed throughout the series. She is definitely a better character than the Elena in the Vampire Diaries book series. I love her relationship with Raphael as well, although his lack of communication is at times annoying.

The tension is built up really well in the book, both in the hunt for the crazy archangel and between Elena and Raphael. The world that they live in is really well created with its own history and rules. While Elena battles her way through dealing with the challenge she has been given, it is really funny watching her step on so many peoples' toes in order to get the job done!

A really enjoyable read, I'm looking forward to the next book in the series! 8 out of 10

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Blonde Roots by Bernardine Evaristo

Paperback, 272 pages
Published January 1st 2010 by Penguin Books (first published January 22nd 2009)
ISBN 0141031522 (ISBN13: 9780141031521)

Blurb: "What if the history of the transatlantic slave trade had been reversed and Africans had enslaved Europeans? How would that have changed the ways that people justified their inhuman behavior? How would it inform our cultural attitudes and the insidious racism that still lingers today? We see this tragicomic world turned upside down through the eyes of Doris, an Englishwoman enslaved and taken to the New World, movingly recounting experiences of tremendous hardship and the dreams of the people she has left behind, all while journeying toward an escape into freedom.
A poignant and dramatic story grounded in provocative ideas, "Blonde Roots" is a genuinely original, profoundly imaginative novel."

I was really intrigued when I read the blurb of this book, I thought it would be really interesting and moving but I was really disappointed by it. While it was thought-provoking and moving at times, it didn't capture my imagination in the same way that Noughts and Crosses by Malorie Blackman did (an amazing book from what I remember, it has been quite a long time since I read it).

I thought it was clever that mid-way through the novel the narrative swapped to the opinion of Chief Kaga and it was horrifying to see how easily ideas could be twisted and people made to seem less than human simply because they are different from you. Additionally from a historical perspective it gave insight into what life as a slave may have been like from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries (although obviously some aspects would have changed and this is not a factual account).

However, I found it very confusing that the author did not leave the countries where they are in reality, she swapped Africa and Europe around and moved the Equator. This really threw me and made following the story more difficult. However, I did like the Africanised (if that's a word) London (or Londolo in the book) tube stations. However, the fact that it is meant to be set in the eighteenth century made it confusing when they had technology that seemed too modern in the book, whilst the European people were portrayed as living lives like that of the fourteenth century when the majority of the population were serfs. The story would have worked better if she had created fictional countries and made the time setting more cohesive. Although I do understand that she was trying to portray European people as less sophisticated.

While I did care about Doris' character, really wanting her to escape, and the stories of the characters were tragic and moving, there was just something missing in this book for me. It was good but unsatisfying, I can't really explain it. Also, the ending was disappointing and seemed to end quite quickly as well. This book was only a 5 out of 10 for me, it had the potential to be a lot better!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Is It Just Me? by Miranda Hart

Hardcover, 323 pages
Published October 11th 2012 by Hodder & Stoughton (first published October 1st 2012)
ISBN 1444734148 (ISBN13: 9781444734140)

Miranda's introduction to the book:
"Well hello to you dear browser. Now I have your attention it would be rude if I didn't tell you a little about my literary feast. So, here is the thing: is it just me or does anyone else find that adulthood offers no refuge from the unexpected horrors, peculiar lack of physical coordination and sometimes unexplained nudity, that accompanied childhood and adolescence?

Does everybody struggle with the hazards that accompany, say, sitting elegantly on a bar stool; using chopsticks; pretending to understand the bank crisis; pedicures - surely it's plain wrong for a stranger to fondle your feet? Or is it just me?

I am proud to say I have a wealth of awkward experiences - from school days to life as an office temp - and here I offer my 18-year-old self (and I hope you too dear reader) some much needed caution and guidance on how to navigate life's rocky path.

Because frankly where is the manual? The much needed manual to life. Well, fret not, for this is my attempt at one and let's call it, because it's fun, a Miran-ual. I thank you.

Miranda Hart made her mark appearing in shows including Smack the Pony, Absolutely Fabulous and Not Going Out. But when her sitcom Miranda burst on to our screens in 2009, her popularity rocketed. Miranda has since been crowned the Queen of Comedy at the British Comedy Awards and the hit series Miranda has won two further comedy awards, two RTS Awards, and been nominated for four BAFTAs. Miranda is currently filming a drama for BBC based on the bestselling memoir Call the Midwife. The third series of Miranda will air in autumn 2012."

For this review, I have decided to take a leaf out of Miranda's book, her Miranual, and address you as My Dear Reader Chum, which seems very fitting in the circumstances as I am guessing that looking at my blog you love reading too, hurrah!

So, My Dear Reader Chum, as anyone who read my post for the Liebster blog award will know, I love Miranda, she is amazing and I would quite happily be her best friend and play snack-fishing with her (a reference to her show for those who are confused). Reading her book was just like watching her in her show - her writing is the same as the way she speaks. You can really feel her enthusiasm and positivity about making the world a better place, even when you're feeling down. The book is funny and thought-provoking at the same time.

I wasn't sure if I would like her conversations with her younger self in the book but they definitely grew on me as the book progressed. Although occasionally I thought the conversations could have been a little shorter.

I really liked Miranda's pit stops in the book. This, MDRC, was where she took a breather from the main content of the book to create a checklist of the really random things that she does to see if you have done any of them too. I could tick off quite a lot of them, which is a little worrying but also weirdly makes me feel proud of myself for my clumsiness and occasional social awkwardness!

Miranda covers the following topics in her book: Life, music, hobbies, office life (she comes up with great office games, I fully support the idea of everyone leaving the office at lunch to play hopscotch outside), technology, beauty, bodies, exercise, diets, health, holidays, christmas, dogs, mothers and children, dating, weddings, culture, and dreams. So she clearly covers most aspects of life, although books were sadly missing!

As well as being really funny, Miranda makes some really astute observations in her book aswell. I love that she so fully supports being true to yourself and encourages you to follow your dreams. Her chapter on diets is brilliant, she writes:

"I have written the only diet book that I believe needs to exist, and here it is:
Chapter One: Eat a bit less.
Chapter Two: Move about a bit more.
The End."

This is so true. I think all of the diet books that exist today are just ridiculous really.

There are so many great things about this book, and I can't even remember all the times I sat there reading and thinking, yes definitely and phew, it's not just me, whenever Miranda asked "Is it just me?" All I can really do MDRC is recommend you read it, both for a giggle and to feel better about life.

Overall, MDRC, I would have to reply to Miranda that no, it is definitely not just her!

8 out of 10 :)

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Paperback, 316 pages
Published January 3rd 2013 by Puffin Books (first published November 2011)
ISBN 0141345659 (ISBN13: 9780141345659)

Synopsis: "Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green's most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love."

This book is like an emotional tsunami that leaves you feeling bruised and raw at the end of it. I had to stop myself from crying in the middle of a crowded train while reading it. It's the sort of book that changes you and as you finish you don't think you will ever recover from it. I fell in love with the characters and felt like I was there with them through their struggles. I wish I could be as strong and witty as they are. I have never been in their situation but this book makes me want to live life to the fullest, because you never know what is going to happen next. It makes me want to be brave.

I now want to read everything John Green has ever written and I want him to write more and deliver it immediately to my door.

I could not find anything to dislike about this book, apart from never wanting it to end. However, I just want to say I understand that it is fictional and that this does not fully represent real-life cancer experiences. I just know that it meant a lot to me. It is simply amazing, I can't say any more. 10 out of 10.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Crossed by Ally Condie

Paperback, 375 pages
Published 2012 by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin (first published November 1st 2011)
ISBN 9780141340104

"The Society chooses everything.
The books you read. The music you listen to. The person you love.

Yet for Cassia the rules have changed. Ky has been taken and she will sacrifice everything to find him.

And when Cassia discovers Ky has escaped to the wild frontiers beyond the Society there is hope.

But on the edge of society nothing is as it seems... A rebellion is rising.

And a tangled web of lies and double-crosses could destroy everything."

This was a bit of a transition book. A lot happened in it and you learnt a lot about the characters, with more characters being introduced who added interesting dynamics to the story. But at the same time, you could sense that it was really building up to the final book in the trilogy, which should be exciting, although I have no idea what is going to happen. I'm enjoying the series as it is not always immediately apparent what the characters are going to choose to do, not because they aren't well developed, but because they are in difficult situations and the author makes it clear that they have conflicting emotions about the events that take place in this book.

I enjoyed reading parts of the story from Ky's point of view, these gave a lot more insight into his history and his character. I also really liked the conflicting opinions on the rebellion and what it could mean for each character. There was also more information about the history of the Society and how it started, with some people choosing to live outside of it and who are posing a threat to the Society in this book.

I really liked this book, but I think that the next one will be better. I would give this 7 out of 10.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

Paperback, 1024 pages
Published 1993 by Wordsworth Editions (first published 1865)
ISBN 1853260622 (ISBN13: 9781853260629)

"This title is translated by Louise & Aylmer Maude. With an Introduction by Henry and Olga Claridge, University of Kent at Canterbury, "War and Peace" is a vast epic centred on Napoleon's war with Russia. While it expresses Tolstoy's view that history is an inexorable process which man cannot influence, he peoples his great novel with a cast of over five hundred characters. Three of these, the artless and delightful Natasha Rostov, the world-weary Prince Andrew Bolkonsky and the idealistic Pierre Bezukhov illustrate Tolstoy's philosophy in this novel of unquestioned mastery. This translation is one which received Tolstoy's approval."

Well frankly, I did question the mastery of this one, I really had to force myself to finish it. It had moments of being ok, when I would think aha we're getting somewhere, but then it would drift back into mindnumbing information. As Tolstoy, himself said, this really isn't a novel, it is an 'it', of astoundingly frustrating proportions - my words, not his. Most of the time I wanted to burn it and I imagined various violent deaths for Tolstoy to prevent him from writing it, but sadly he has long been deceased. Similarly, I wanted to smack most of his characters round the head, the men for being stupid and the women for being vapid (haha that rhymes) and genuinely, I am not normally a violent person at all.

If you do decide to read it, don't bother with the second epilogue unless you want to read more of Tolstoy's ideas about history and causality in a seemingly never-ending waffle of questions and what-ifs.

Saying all this, I am proud to say that I have read it, and even more so to say that I finished it! I will give this 3 out of 10. The only reason it gets more than one is that Tolstoy was clearly very clever, so possibly if you enjoy reading a myriad of theoretical ideas about war then you might enjoy it. Also, as a history graduate I did find it interesting to learn a little more about the Russian war, defending against French invasion, the way it was written just did not appeal to me at all. It probably didn't help that I read this just after I finished my degree, I probably should have read it when I had recovered. Nevertheless, I'm never reading it again!

Friday, 18 January 2013

Liebster Blog Award

I would like to thank four lovely people for nominating me for this award, it was such a great surprise when I found out!
1. YA Midnight Reads
2. Weakling No. 14
3. Amy BookWorm
4. Bookaholic Corner

They all have such amazing blogs and I hope mine will improve and someday be like theirs!

The Liebster Award is given to bloggers who have under 200 followers. The presenter should give it to blogs that should be recognised. 'Liebster' in German means best so I guess this award is for the best blog in your opinion.

1. Thank your Liebster Award presenter and link back to them in your own post
2. Answer the 11 questions given to you by your presenter, state 11 random facts about yourself and create 11 questions for your nominees
3. Present the Liebster Award to 11 bloggers who you think deserve the award with under 200 followers and leave a comment on their blog telling them that you nominated them.
4. Copy and Paste the award on your blog

I have a lot of questions to get through, so here goes!

Questions from YA Midnight Reads:
1.What is your biggest pet peeve?
People walking really slowly and taking up the whole pavement without moving aside for other people. Also, people who talk in the cinema.
2.What do you like to do other than reading?
Watch tv and films, play the flute, meet up with friends, explore new places.
3.Do you have a habit of buying lots and lots of books?
Yes! It is becoming a bit of an issue space-wise in my room. Four bookshelves is not enough!!
4.What is your guilty obsession?
Umm reading haha. Also, I love watching The Vampire Diaries
5.Do you have a piercing?
My ears are pierced.
6.Are you a morning person?
Definitely not!
7.What is the funniest joke you've ever heard?
On the TV show Miranda, her friend gives her a muffin to eat which she takes a big bite out of and then spits out. She then says “Savoury muffins?! Savoury muffins?! I don’t know you anymore, Gary”. It’s funnier when you watch it...
8.What is your favourite childhood book?
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
9.Do you still like to watch children's TV shows?
Not really, although it’s funny watching really old ones back sometimes.
10.How long do you spend blogging a day?
I don’t blog everyday at the moment, I’ve only just started and I’m still trying to figure things out.
11.Do you think that dogs are better than cats?
Dogs as a species are better, but friendly cats are lovely too!

Questions from Weakling No. 14:
The 11 questions from :
1. Create your own bad boy character.
I will call him Sean Harrison, he’s tall with dark hair and green eyes. Funny and sarcastic, he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him.
2. Do you want Selena Gomez and Justin Beiber to be together?
I have to say that I don’t really care. If people will stop talking about it I will say no.
3. Are you subscribed to any YouTubers? If so, who?
Ummm no I don’t have a youtube account.
4. Your favourite piece of lyrics.
At the moment it’s: “On the green bank I sit contented and I do not want to roam, and you will often catch me smiling happy, on the green bank I call my home” by The Man Who Loves You (a small band from Plymouth, England)
5. What's the one thing you love about yourself, without any doubt?
Going for physical traits, I love the colour of my eyes, they seem like a normal brown colour, but in the light they’re kind of a golden brown with a dark edge.
6. Is there anything about yourself you wish you could change?
I wish I could be more confident and chatty.
7. Worcester Sauce or Roast Chicken?
Roast Chicken.
8. Favourite item of clothing? (Mine is my pyjamas and ankle socks...Thats two, but I can't choose :P)
I really like my onesie that I got for Christmas. It’s white with Christmassy patterns in red, including reindeer. It’s comfy, even if I can’t wear it out of the house.
9. Favourite book cover?
That’s a tough one! I really like the covers of the Trylle series by Amanda Hocking
10. Favourite heroine?
Elizabeth Bennet, Pride and Prejudice
11. Which do you like better on books, bylines or covers? (I just love me a good byline ;P)
The covers, because that’s the first thing that makes me notice a book, even if I know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover!

Questions from Amy BookWorm:
1.Do you like this colour font?
Yes (Sorry I couldn't work out how to keep it in my post!)
2.What foreign languages do you speak?
French and Italian
3.Favourite type of music?
4.What is your favourite book with a movie adaptation? And why?
Pride and Prejudice, the BBC version, because it’s so well made, funny and really well acted.
5. Do you enter book giveaways? If so, how many have you won?
I haven't yet
6. Do you ever smell books? If not, is it because you prefer digital books?
Yes I love the smell of books, particularly old ones in libraries.
7. Hardcover or paperback?
Hardbacks are prettier but paperbacks are easier to read and cheaper, so I'd choose paperback.
8.A book you didn’t finish...?
I think I always finish books, but I wish I hadn't finished War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy! It was awful! I will post a review soon.
9.How do you order your bookshelves/bookcase(s)?
It varies, sometimes it's alphabetically by author surname, other times it's by genre.
10.Favourite short story/novella?
I don't read many of these, but I enjoyed Barbara Erskine's collection of short stories in Encounters.
11.Do you count these in your books read total?
Yes. Although Encounters would only count as one.

Finally, questions from Bookaholic Corner:
The 11 questions for my nominees are:
1.What was the book that got you to fall in love with reading?
The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S.Lewis. I also loved The Worst Witch series by Jill Murphy.
2.What's a book you decided to read by judging it's cover?
Matched by Ally Condie, it looked really interesting.
3.What's a book that you read, but did not like?
As I mentioned before, War and Peace - don't bother, people!
4.What is your biggest pet peeve?
See above :)
5.Have any funny jokes you wanna share?
I'm not good at telling jokes, I think it's better when funny things happen in everyday life.
6.What other hobbies do you have, other than reading?
I play the flute and I used to be in a concert band. I need to join a new one now that I've finished university.
7.What book are you currently reading?
Crossed by Ally Condie and Is it just me? by Miranda Hart. I'm reading two because I can't carry Miranda's book on the train - it's a heavy hardback!
8.What is your favorite book?
This is so hard!! I love so many books. I really love Persuasion by Jane Austen.
9.If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Egypt to see the pyramids. Or Rome, because I speak Italian and I have never been to Italy.
10.What have you always wanted to do in your life, but haven't done yet?
Go in to space... don't think that's going to happen somehow.
11.Why did you decide to start a blog?
So that I think more about the books I've read after I finish them. I think I remember them better now.

So, now that I've gone through all of those, my 11 random facts are:
1. I hate Marmite
2. I love chocolate
3. I wear contact lenses
4. I have flown a plane :)
5. I wish I could do magic
6. I'm doing work experience at Penguin publishers at the moment
7. I have a bright yellow 'Keep Calm and Carry a Wand' canvas on my bedroom wall
8. I don't really like the colour pink...
9. I cry when I get angry and hate confrontation
10. I hate clothes shopping - I know weird girl right?
11. I collect bookmarks from all the places I visit :)

My 11 nominees are:
1. My lovely friend Rachel at The One With Rachel's Book
2. Untitled
3. The Readingista
4. Out of this World Book Reviews
5. Babbling of a Bookaholic
6. The Book Diaries
7. Sitting With A Book
8. Lost in Wonderland
9. In The Land of Books
10. Fantasia Books
11. The Armchair Librarian

My questions for my nominees are:
1. What are you reading now?
2. Who is your favourite author?
3. If you could go anywhere in the world, where would it be?
4. What is the thing you're most proud of?
5. What are your hobbies, other than reading?
6. What is your favourite film?
7. Chocolate or sweets?
8. Are there any books that you have started but not finished?
9. Do you have a favourite band? If so, who?
10. What was the book that got you to fall in love with reading?
11. What foreign languages do you speak?

Congratulations! Remember to link back :)

Happy reading everyone!

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Published January 1st 2013 by Puffin Books (first published March 31st 2001)
ISBN 0141346140 (ISBN13: 9780141346144)

Blurb: "There were no surprises in Gatlin County.
We were pretty much the epicenter of the middle of nowhere.
At least, that's what I thought.
Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong.
There was a curse.
There was a girl.
And in the end, there was a grave.

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she's struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town's oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything."

I'm not really sure what I think about this book. I enjoyed reading it and I really liked that the story was told from the guy's point of view, it made a welcome change from the usual 'I'm a girl, I have powers, I don't feel like I fit in' type book (although I do enjoy those too). However, the story took a long time to really get going and I was never completely engrossed by the characters or their situation. It felt like they went round in circles a lot.

Lena: I'm going to turn evil and there's nothing I can do to stop it.
Ethan: I love you anyway but we'll find a way to stop it.
Lena: My family won't tell me anything and I'm going to turn evil like my cousin who used to be my best friend. I just want to be normal.
Ethan: I like that you're different from everyone else. We'll find some solution. Everyone else is an idiot.

This is pretty much how the whole story goes, while adding in a few ancestors who had the same issues and caused the curse and crazy families in the present. I just think that this book would have been a lot better if they condensed the story a bit. On the plus side though, the characters benefited from the book being so long as you knew a lot about their thoughts and feelings.

Having said all of this, I did like Ethan and Lena and I did grow to care about what happened to them. Lena's cousin Ridley was an interesting character and definitely added a lot to the story. While her uncle Macon (whose name I never figured out how to read in my head - does it sound like bacon or the french maison? Does anybody know?), with his dog Boo Radley, were enigmatic and added more mystery and glamour to the plot.

As I have said, while there were parts of this book that I didn't like, I did really enjoy the idea behind the book and the question of fate versus choice. In the end I would probably give this book 6.5 out of 10. Did anyone else feel the same way about it?

Matched by Ally Condie

Paperback, 366 pages
Published December 1st 2010 by Razorbill (first published November 30th 2010)
ISBN 0141333052 (ISBN13: 9780141333052)

Blurb: "On her seventeenth birthday, Cassia meets her match. The Society dictates that he is her perfect partner for life, except he's not.

In Cassia's society, Officials decide who people love.
How many children they have.
Where they work.
When they die.

But, as Cassia finds herself falling in love with another boy,
she is determined to make some choices of her own.

And that's when her whole world
begins to unravel..."

Goodreads has really mixed reviews for this book so I wasn't sure if I would like it or not but I really enjoyed it, it's such a good book! It's one of those stories that really draws you in. I really like the writing style and the characters are interesting. I particularly liked the relationship between Cassia and her grandfather.

This is kind of a Nineteen Eighty-Four for young adults. Obviously, George Orwell's books are in another league to this but nevertheless the story poses questions about society and how you think you would act in those circumstances.

Some reviewers had a problem with the questions about the Society that are left unanswered, but I think that adds to the environment that the author wanted to create. It's all about information control, if the characters knew everything and could become more involved than it would be more of a democracy. In the Society, information is closely guarded and no-one is allowed to speak about their jobs to people in different areas so that no one person has the knowledge to complete a whole process, like growing food. It makes people reliant on the system. Anyway, rant over, I just think that the book is really cleverly planned and doesn't deserve the criticism it has received from some. The fact that the Society seems so perfect at first glance is what makes it more worrying the further you read as you notice more and more that isn't quite adding up.

On a lighter note, I really liked Cassia's relationship with both Xander and Ky, and I can understand why she is torn. I also love that the written word is such a liberating part of the story (you'll have to read it to find out what I mean).

I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the series and finding out what happens next. I'd give this book 8.5 out of 10.

Saturday, 12 January 2013

The Secret Supper Club by Dana Bate

Paperback, 480 pages
Published December 6th 2012 by Canvas
ISBN 1472102312 (ISBN13: 9781472102317)

"If twenty-six-year-old Hannah Sugarman had her way, she'd be whipping up carrot cakes and running her culinary empire. Instead, she spends her hours cooking up papers on the financial crisis. It doesn't help that no one in her life takes her passion seriously - not even her boyfriend.

When her relationship implodes, Hannah decides to jump-start her life by hosting a secret supper club out of her landlord's flat. Her underground operation presents some problems. Running an unlicensed restaurant out of someone's home is not, technically speaking, legal.

As the success of Hannah's supper club grows, so do the number of secrets she is forced to keep. Can Hannah keep her pop-up restaurant underground? When mysterious guests turn up for dinner, can she handle the heat? Or will she have to step out of the kitchen? A charming romantic comedy, The Secret Supper Club is a story about finding yourself, fulfilling your dreams, and falling in love along the way.

(Note: This is the UK edition of THE GIRLS' GUIDE TO LOVE AND SUPPER CLUBS)"

I just want to say that I loved this book. It was really fun and I could really relate to Hannah. The author really made her seem like a real person, there was so much depth and history to who she was. I liked that she was unsure of herself and sometimes didn't know if her life was going in the right direction. I think that the way Hannah deals with her parents' conflicting expectations of her was really good. How she develops in the book is great and at times so funny I was chuckling to myself on the train, which was a little awkward I can tell you! I also loved that she was a little bit crazy and couldn't stop it from showing, it's great to know you aren't the only one.

When I was first recommended this book I had my doubts about how good it would be, even though I knew that my friend and I have very similar tastes in books. I thought, secret supper clubs, what on earth are they? How do they work? Etc etc. However, the story behind this completely turned my thoughts around. Even though I'm not a massive foodie - chocolate is my main culinary passion - this makes me want to try new foods and flavour combinations. You can tell that the author is really passionate about food like her main character.

As the blurb says, this really is a charming romantic comedy, frothy and fun but with a story that answers questions that we all have about our lives. I give this a 9 out of 10. It left me feeling really happy and enthusiatic about life.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

White Rose Rebel by Janet Paisley

Paperback, 400 pages
Published June 5th 2008 by Penguin (first published 2007)
ISBN 0141026790 (ISBN13: 9780141026794)

"Anne Farquharson is a Highland girl – tempestuous, bold, determined to be her own woman. Yet the clan Farquharson is threatened. The Highlands suffer at the domineering hand of English King George, while there are rumours that Bonnie Prince Charlie, exiled to France, is raising an army in a bid for the throne.

When Anne marries a clan chief and creates a shaky alliance, she is doing more than taking his bed. Soon she is drawn into the heart of a brutal and bloody conflict, and as the Jacobite rebellion escalates, she and her husband find themselves on opposite sides of the battlefield."

I read this while I was visiting Edinburgh in Scotland, what an amazing city, and it was great to get into the Scottish spirit with this! I must also add that I'm not at all biased that she is also an Anne - what a great name that is...

Anyway, this is great historical fiction! A good level of historical research has clearly been done but the story is well constructed to fill gaps in the historical evidence. The author creates characters that you really care about and she definitely made me want to learn more about Scottish history! Although she could have developed the relationship between Anne and her husband a little more at the beginning of the novel to make their interactions during the rebellion stronger.

Anne is a really interesting character and it's great to read about women (not just Anne's character) who made decisions for themselves and fought for what they believed in during this time, it's just a shame so much evidence about her life was destroyed during the course of time, or due to the patriarchal system, as the author argues.

I really enjoyed this book although it took me a while to really engage with the story and be drawn in to the world of the Jacobite rebellion. Therefore I think this deserves a 7 out of 10.