Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Under the Never Sky - Veronica Rossi (#1)

Sometimes crazes of certain books sweep the blogosphere and make everyone hyped up about it. First, the Hunger Games, Matched, Divergent...this one I think can be included.
This is a book I probably would have pondered over if I saw it in the library or a bookshop. This was sent to me by the publisher (THANK YOU SO MUCH BY THE WAY!) and although I looked at it and wondered 'Oh god, I am not going to like this', there was something nagging me at the back of my mind 'Hey Rebecca, read it and see!'
So I did read it and see.

Synopsis: Aria has always lived her life in the protected domes of Reverie - she's never had to do anything herself as she lives her life through the virtual worlds of the Realms through her permanent Smarteye. So when she is forced into the outside world, nicknamed the Death Shop, because of events beyond her control, she knows her chances are slim of ever finding her missing mother.
However, she meets Perry. An Outsider - or Savage - with superb senses whose also searching for someone. Both have skills and knowledge to help one another. If both of them stay alive, both will find their answers.

Review: Hm. This is a book with mixed reactions for me. This COULD be an amazing, perfect, wonderful novel - all those things. And this is a great book, first and foremost. But there are small things that for me, let it down. Firstly, look at this cover. My first thoughts when seeing the front cover in the flesh? It's Bella and Jacob from the hugely successful Twilight series. As a note, this is nothing like Twilight. It just annoyed me, like they were aiming for THOSE girls that were obsessed with Jacob in Twilight (sorry Twilight bitterness with now be put away for a while). I do not like this cover.

Aria meets Perry before she is put outside Reverie in extraordinary situations. Without revealing too much, she basically breaks into a deserted compound with the leader of Reverie's son, her best friend and some other boys 'just for fun' and something happens that means she is saved by Perry. Although the 'events' mean the opening may seem fast-paced and interesting, it is not.

This books took 100 pages for me to actually get into it. The opening was one of the worst I have read and I was on the verge of giving up completely until Aria is put outside and Perry and her meet. In fact, the book only completely had my enjoyment until we meet Roar, Perry's old friend. I know it is universally thought around the blogosphere that the opening is well...not THAT great, and I agreed completely. The opening does let this novel down and without this bad introduction, this book would have probably been higher in many ratings. The opening MAY just not suit my tastes but I just found it slow paced for such an eventful few chapters, Perry annoyed me straight away and I had no idea what Reverie was, what Aria was talking about or even who she was. It took me halfway through the book to realise Luminda is Aria's mother...

However, once the story gets going, it is great, interesting and always keeps you on your toes with the narrative. The issue of the Senses in Perry's world could be incredibly complicated for the reader but Rossi successfully references and talks about these at ease - I understood what they were and what they meant for Perry completely. It was interesting, the contrast between the two worlds. Aria's world reminded me of now with teenagers living life through virtual worlds for something to do. It kind of showed well, this is what we could all be like in 20 years time, perhaps. The world were just so different and although I would have liked some more description of Reverie, I could imagine the difference of the worlds clearly for Aria.

The characters are done amazingly. I admit Perry REALLY annoyed me at the beginning.  Perry in the opening is completely different to the one at the end - he may grow at a character but it was like the beginning one was an older Perry to the one at the end. He seemed more 'teenager-ish' at the end. This may be purposefully but it was SUCH a difference. Aria, I know annoys some people at the beginning, but I liked her determination throughout the book. She also grows as a character, and hardly complains about the situation she is in unlike some other books. I liked how she just got on with it.
For me, the minor characters make this book - Roar, Cinder, Talon. Roar is by far my favourite with his witty comments. Ah, I loved him.
Perry and Aria's don't exactly hit it off straight away. They hate each other in fact but feel they need to stay together. However, the love does come eventually and magically. This seemed relatable and genuine to me. I mean, most people do not fall in love at first sight. They do not start touching each other straight away. So I approved of the eventual growth of their love for each other and how it was written so well.
The closing was very abrupt for me. It just kind of ended. However, this is a series and as it ends SO AMBIGUOUSLY I can see Rossi making way for the rest of the series.

Another thing that really confused me is that the characters in the book go on and on about the Aether. This is like a third force that attacks from the sky. BUT THEY NEVER EXPLAIN WHAT ON EARTH IT IS. It's like I'm expected to know. I have no idea if this is right but from what I can tell, it is like a electric storm that can burn you alive...I have no idea if the lack of knowledge of what this is was done on purpose but...

I know I will read the whole of this series. This book has definitely caught my attention to Veronica Rossi. Despite the annoying complications in this book like the opening and the Aether, this book has some sparkling characters and an ending that HAS to make me want to read the rest of the series. She has created a book where the imperfections are overlooked more by the things that are great about this book: the setting, characters and romance. I, and many others, will be negative but trust me, pick up this book if you have the chance, ignore the opening, make your own judgement. I think you'll get hooked.
Verdict: Very bad at points but overall, this book makes me want more and more.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for review - much appreciated.

Author's Website:
Pages: 375
Publisher: Atom - part of Little, Brown
Challenges: None

The next book in the series, THROUGH THE EVER NIGHT will be released in 2013.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Author Interview: Jenelle Jack Pierre

This is the first ever post on a new feature called 'The 5 Questions' where I ask authors 5 of the same questions about their new book.

Today, I have Jenelle Jack Pierre, author of Before I Breathe, to answer the 5 questions on her new book. 

How did you come up with the idea for Before I Breathe?

I wanted to write about a female character who had a different high school experience than the norm.  Without giving a major conflict away, Kalena spends much of the story outside the walls of high school, which creates a major shift in her world and is a problem for her parents.

What did you enjoy writing most about in the book?

I enjoyed the process of Kalena falling in love with Isaiah and the excitement of it, because her feelings were new.  Novelty's always a powerful thing in a person's life.
But Isaiah is someone that affects Kalena's life in negative ways also, and showing how their relationship changes throughout the novel was fun.

Describe the book in a sentence.

Before I Breathe tells the story of a High School sophomore who gets pregnant and leaves her parents home to live with her first love.

What advice would you give to future writers - both writing and publishing wise?

I would tell future writers to make 2012 the year that they WRITE.  Writing well has a learning curve and every writer needs practice to produce good work.
In publishing, thankfully ebooks and self-publishing has given writers an avenue that wasn't available before, when literary agents and traditonal publishers were the primary gatekeepers.  After writing, doing revisions, writing, and doing more revisions, let people you trust read your work; and continue the process until you feel you're ready to publish.

What are you working on next?

I've written a novel to be released in Fall 2012.  It's tentatively titled Passing High School.  It's based on three girls who are "passing" in their lives in some way.  Another word to describe the "passing" that takes place in the novel could be "poser."  I'm also working on some short stories, which I also enjoy writing.

Thanks Jenelle!

Synopsis: Kalena Moore is a Montgomery High student who isn’t into school.  Isaiah Wilkins is a classmate that her friends think is trouble.  Life becomes more interesting when Kalena starts dating Isaiah, but soon things spin quickly out of control and she gets pregnant.  Then Kalena sees that there's another side to her boyfriend.
Determined to put her life back together, Kalena takes a path where there is no turning back. 


For more information, go to Jenelle's Twitter page - @JenellePierre

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Special £1 editions of Maureen Johnson & Will Hill

For those who live in the UK, this is something you may be interested in.

Every year is World Book Day on the 1st March where those under the age of 18 and in full-time education are given a £1 book token to buy either the special editions released for the day or to contribute to a book of their choice (although they have to pay the rest).
It is something I personally have grown up with, the excitement when I was young to receive the token, thinking already what I will be buying with it. It is something that really encouraged me and many others to do the ancient activity of just reading. Something that is so important in a digital media generation that this world is developing into.

Anyway, because mostly the £1 special World Book Day books are normally only a selection of children's books (for this year's selection, click here)

However, because us teenager's get a little left out once we hit 14 and aren't exactly interested in cute kittens and finding a caterpillar, Waterstones (a UK bookstore) have decided to release special editions sold at £1 for the day of two YA titles, starting tomorrow (27th February)
These are:

The Name of the Star - Maureen Johnson 

Department 19 - Will Hill

Both of which are supposed to be VERY good books so this is a great selection for Waterstones to choose. Just to emphasise, this IS JUST AT WATERSTONES FOR THESE TWO BOOKS. It is merely a promotion as part of World Book Day to make us YA readers feel less left out. 
I personally will be running from the train station after college to (thankfully only a 5 minute walk) my local store to get The Name of The Star. Thanks Waterstones!

For more info, click here to go to Maureen Johnson's blog where she explains everything. 

Enjoy - let me know if you got a copy!

On My Bookshelf (15)

This meme is inspired by the similar meme, 'In My Mailbox' created by The Story Siren  (I don't have a Mailbox...)

So about an hour after doing last week's On My Bookshelf, I went to the library and got more.
Ever felt like there are so many books you want to read that there is literally not enough time in life to do it all in? Yep - feeling that was now.

Borrowed from Library: 

Bumped by Megan McCafferty - this has been on my to-read for a while so I'm glad I've finally for a copy of this. 
Abandon by Meg Cabot - this is a bit paranormal, as described in a recommendation booklet I found in the library - a genre I avoid. But it's Meg Cabot. And it's a re-telling of Helen of Troy. And with my daily Classics lessons, this is something that interests me. 
Cinder by Marissa Meyer - I wasn't sure about this one but I've seen so many positive reviews for this one on the blogosphere and it sounds quite interesting that I thought I'd go for it.

All dystopian? Interesting.

What did you get this week? 
Have a good one :)

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Author Interview: Meredith Zeitlin

Today, Meredith Zeitlin is here to ask five questions on her upcoming book, FRESHMEN YEAR AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS. (Click here for my review)

1) What made you write your new book, Freshman Year and Other Natural Disasters? 

I wanted to write a book that was sort of a response to the Gossip Girl/Clique/etc. craze - a book about a REAL girl in NYC, who isn't drinking martinis at the Savoy while clutching a limitless platinum card and having X-rated affairs with half of her school, but who drinks wine coolers in her friend's living room, has parents that drive her insane, and thinks everyone is having sex but her. A book with a cast of relatable characters like the ones I loved growing up, that made me feel like I wasn't the only awkward bookworm in the world.

2) What did you enjoy the most about writing it? 

Well, I've always enjoyed writing itself... but I think the most exciting moment was when I realized I had an actual BOOK on my hands. I had just been chugging along, not really sure where I was going... so that was a pretty cool feeling. Of course, then I had to figure out what to do with it!

3) Describe the book in a sentence  

The hilarious tale of Kelsey Finkelstein's (mostly disastrous) adventures as a high school freshman.

4) What advice would you give to future writers - both in the writing and publishing process? 

* Write. Don’t sit around worrying that you don’t know what your ending is or what kind of book it should be or that you don’t know how to get an agent. Just write – even if it’s terrible. Just keep going. You’ll be amazed what you come up with.

* This piece of advice is actually credited to my writing teacher in college, the marvelous Michael Elyanow: “Kill Your Babies.” Basically, it means that even if you’ve written what you think is the funniest, most clever, poignant, whatever, thing in the world, if everyone is telling you it doesn’t work to further your story… cut it. Be brutal. It’s very hard, but it makes your work better. (Even if you think it won’t.)

* Do your homework. When looking for an agent – or publisher, if you’re going that route first – find out who is on whose client roster, what genres of work that person represents, whether that person is accepting new clients, what they want you to submit if so, etc etc. If you send your brilliant historical novel to someone who is looking for true crime, it’s just a waste of your time and the recipient’s. 

* Don’t get frustrated and stop writing. Put it down, eat a cake, watch a Golden Girls rerun… but come back to it!
* Don’t think your first (or second, or third) draft will be your last, even if you’re sure it can’t get ANY better. It can, and it will.
* Don’t give up if you get rejection letters from agents or publishers – I certainly did, and I’m sure I will again. Yes, it sucks, but it probably means that it isn’t the right fit for you to work together, not that your work isn’t good. Keep getting your writing out to different people; even if it seems like it’s taking forever to connect with someone. Things in the publishing world DO take forever. I’m still learning that, every step of the way.  

5) Are you working on anything else?   

I wrote a children's picture book that I'm hoping will find a home soon, and I'm working on another YA novel. It's not a sequel to Freshman Year..., but it takes place in the same world, so you'll see some of the characters again

Thank you to Meredith and G.P.Putnam's Sons
I'll just leave you on the amazing trailer for this book - this made me want to read the book!

FRESHMEN YEAR AND OTHER NATURAL DISASTERS will be published on 1st March 2012.

Check out my review of the book - here

Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters - Meredith Zeitlin

Published on 1st March 2012

There are times when I love being a girl where I can just sit back, relax, and read books such as these where I am SO glad I'm not in their situation. Such a nice feeling that while I'm reading, I'm not the only person to embarrass themselves severely in public.
A copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. And after seeing this appear on a dozen other book blogs with positive reviews, I thought it was a book I could not refuse to review.
I like the cover of this book and it does give an idea of the contemporary and chick-lit aspects to it but I don't think it does it complete justice. What clinched it for me? The book trailer (scroll down to the bottom of the post to see it yourself!). That does do it justice.

Synopsis: In her 14 years, Kelsey Finkelstein is frustrated as her plans are always ruined with the intervention of her annoying parents and younger sister. But with the start of high-school coming up, with the help of her friends - Em, Cass and Jojo - Kelsey plans to make this year the best year. While things start out great - her enemy moving away and being on the soccer team - it soon goes pear shaped. With a junior looking for revenge and a mysterious photographer photographing every embarrassing moment - just to name a few disasters - Kelsey's plan for greatness seems far from reach.

Review: Wow - well, Kelsey's first year at high-school was a riot. This girl is one of those people we see frequently in books and TV shows where you are SO glad you are not them because of the continual bad luck they have.
For me, this book doesn't really have a well oiled detailed plot to it - but is more of an exploration of Kelsey's first year and looking all the potential situations and occurances that COULD happen. In a way, this is a survival guide for those entering this stage of adolescence. This actually works I think and makes it stand out for me against other books much like this one.

The main characters were all original yet are very identifiable and almost stereotypical for the first-day-at-big-school-with-big-group-of-friends novels, TV shows and films. You have the tomboy (Jojo), the dramatic one (Cass) and then the caring one (Em) which make this lovely group of friends even though they are all quite different from one another. These traits I felt weren't characterised straight away, as the beginning was the context and of us meeting and forming a bond with Kelsey, the protagonist. However, boy, their personalities shine through later on - in a good way.
Even the minor characters all have the conventional personalities such as Lexi as the popular, privileged one. I liked this recognisability and it felt nice just to read a book that is definitely going for the girls.

I have read some reviews where the reviewers were laughing out loud at Kelsey's misfortunes but honestly, for me, I wasn't laughing that much. I found them amusing but I was cringing for Kelsey more than laughing (although the beard scene did get a chuckle). There was definite humour there - just nothing that hilarious for me anyway.
My only other problem was that for me Kelsey seemed much older than 14. I know the whole point is she was trying to be older than she actually was. Maybe it's because I'm 17 now and it was only a few years ago I was that age, but I don't know - there were things I wouldn't have dreamt of doing. To me, she seemed around 15/16 - perhaps older.

Apart from my nick-picking, this book is great. The fast pace keeps you interesting in Kelsey and as a protagonist, she was interesting and not annoying (although her demands made me want to slap her a couple of times). She didn't whine excessively and I understood everything she felt and went through - and started feeling for her a bit. The ending is done nicely and when starting the book, I expected it but I think some readers may not. It is a nice round-off to the book.

Overall, apart from a few problems about this book, I found it a fun, quick read where Kelsey's voice kept me wanting more and more. Kelsey's antics keep coming throughout and made me want more and more as well as starting to ponder what ELSE would go wrong. She is a lovely protagonist that makes you interested and different from other, sometimes annoying, 14 year olds. Even though she did seem older than 14, I liked this as well, let's face it, name me a teenager that doesn't try to act older?!
If you ever wanted a book to cheer you up, I think you've just found it.

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this in exchange for a review.

I give it 4 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 288
Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Challenges: None

Check out HERE the interview with Meredith Zeitlin herself as part of The 5 Questions feature. 

Monday, 20 February 2012

The Lover's Dictionary - David Levithan

I saw this when I was still working in the book store and thought it was an interesting idea. It is such a clever and original idea that I wondered why no other author had attempted something like this.
So when my friend mentioned she had a copy after I read her copy of Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (also by David Levithan with Rachel Cohn) I was quite intrigued to see what she thought and what the book itself was like.

In a way this doesn't have a synopsis as if I told you the story within it, it would ruin the book so I'm going to dive straight in.

Review: The story within the book is told through a series of words that mean or relate to an event of a relationship between two people, who met on the internet. The words are done alphabetically so the whole story is mixed up. This is nice in a way as one page you'll have a romantic scene expressing their love for each other, and then the next, a bitter argument. I loved this juxtaposing which I think really defined a normal relationship - it can go from great to bad very quickly.

The book explores the pros and cons of love for everyone and as the characters are unnamed, it seems like this could happen to anyone. David Levithan has created a book where we all feel we can engage with the events in the story - even if we're not in a relationship right now. Not only does it explore the meaning of love, but also plays with the meanings of words.

So the major pro of this book? OH MY GOD IT IS SO SWEET.  The protagonist seems very much in love and when something terrible happens, you really feel for him.
My major con? A lot of the words were words I had never heard of before. Sad, but quite true. Seriously, I had no idea what they meant - they were words that are perhaps rarely used in the English language. This seems to be a recurring theme in David Levithan's writing, as Dash was a bit out there in his word choices in Dash and Lily's Book of Dares. I mean ZENITH? That is the last word used. I asked my friend who when we come to words, she is a queen at knowing the definitions AND SHE DIDN'T EVEN KNOW IT. I liked and understood most of them, but my advice would be to accompany this book with a proper dictionary. Sorry - rant over.

This book is easy to devour - such a quick read due to the small amount of writing on each page, sometimes just a sentence. I think would be relaxing and fun if you had an hour spare on a train journey or a Sunday afternoon. It is a special, cleverly crafted book that means something different to everyone, depending on their personal situations. Being only 17 and had only 2 relationships - both ending badly - I probably relate to little of the words in this book compared to someone older. But at it's length - everyone should read it at least once.

This could be seen as a story, although simple. It has a beginning, middle and end - just mixed up. I know the story of the relationship told but it is forgettable - not important for me. The part I'll remember for this book, and for others too, is the way it is written and the compassion and love spoken between the lines.
This is a new and quirky way of telling a story and I don't think should be discounted by anyone. Some people will hate this, but some people will adore it.

This is simply a modern couple's story told in a very modern and unique way. I commend you, David Levithan - well done.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 211
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Challenges: None

Other books by David Levithan:
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares

Sunday, 19 February 2012

On My Bookshelf (14)

This meme is inspired by the similar meme, 'In My Mailbox' created by The Story Siren  (I don't have a Mailbox...)

So this week has passed by FAST sleeping and going to London mostly. However, it was my 17th birthday last week and as I'm apparently 'oh so hard to buy for' - guess what the majority of my presents were? BOOKS!

This week also marked the first hard copy book received by a publisher to be reviewed which I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT. Ironically, it arrived around my blogoversary which was on the 17th. Two whole years of Rebecca-Books - such a crazy thought.

Given (for my birthday):
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery - As my friend said: Because every child should read this book
Fallen Grace by Mary Hooper - I've read this already - review
Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend by Cora Harrison - AHH, this is the sequel to the amazing first book of Cora Harrison, I was Jane Austen's Best Friend - here's my review
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan - Need I explain?
Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson - I was talking to my friend about this book and said it looked interesting and I wanted to read it (me thinking of borrowing from library) but my friend had other plans and the next day, turned up with this for my birthday - no complains.
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins - you will not believe how irritating it is to be an English blogger sometimes. Seeing every single American book blogger I follow review this and rave on and on about it - quite annoying. Anyway, I slightly screamed when I saw this in my friend's book store where she works. However, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS 3 FOR 2, I refrained from buying it and it turned up the next day with Amy & Roger. I love my friend (I assure you I did not buy it for you to get it - I merely was not sure about buying it and couldn't find a 3rd book...)

The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan - I started this one a couple of days ago - SO sweet so far.

For Review:
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi - this is the first hard copy from a publisher. I know I'm going on and on but I'm just pretty happy that this happened. I want to go into publishing eventually and with this happening and the blog being successful, it makes my dream job look more and more likely - hopefully.

Have a good week!

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Author Interview: Mary Pauline Lowry

This is the first ever post on a new feature called 'The 5 Questions' where I ask authors 5 of the same questions about their new book.

Today, I have Mary Pauline Lowry, author of The Earthquake Machine, to answer a few questions about her new book. 

1) How did you come up with the idea for The Earthquake Machine?

Luckily for me, I have amazing and sweet parents who are nothing like Rhonda's parents in The Earthquake Machine. But my mom did take me to Mexico a lot when I was a little girl. Somehow just by writing, I came up with the idea of a 14 year old girl named Rhonda who runs away while on river rafting trip in Big Bend National Park. She swims across the Rio Grande River to Mexico and travels all the way to the state of Oaxaca. I wanted to write a novel about a brave and brazen young American girl experiencing Mexico for the first time.

2) What did you enjoy writing most about in the book?

In the book there is a group of Mexican women bandits who dress up like men in order to rob people. They know in a machismo culture they won’t be taken seriously as criminals unless people think they are men. It was really fun and delightful to write about female outlaws.

3) Describe the book in a sentence.

The book tells the story of an American girl who runs away to Mexico and “passes” as a Mexican boy while she searches for her family’s gardener who has been deported.

4) What advice would you give to future writers - both writing and publishing wise?

First I would urge writers to set a time to write every day. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time at first. Even 15 minutes will do. I would also encourage young writers to NEVER show their work to anyone they don’t trust completely to be encouraging. This is crucial in the early stages of writing.

The publishing industry is changing so rapidly—with the advent of ebooks and the success of self-published authors—that the advice I would give writers now regarding publication is TOTALLY different than the advice I would have given five years ago. I’ll have to quote the author SETH GODIN who says that now that it’s possible to self-publish and have your books widely accessible to readers through the internet, “only you can say no to yourself.”

Five or ten years ago, agents and editors could “say no” to an author and the author would have no other options. Those days are over now.

5) What are you working on next?

I have written another novel that hasn’t been released yet called THE GODS OF FIRE that is based on my personal experiences as a forest firefighter. The book has been optioned for film. I wrote the script and there is a director attached to the project. But I’m working on a small script revision so that the script can go out to actors. It’s super fun!

Thank you to Mary!

Mary Pauline Lowry has worked as a forest firefighter, screenwriter, open water lifeguard, construction worker, and advocate in the movement to end violence against women. Due to no fault of her sweet parents, at 15 she ran away from home and made it all the way to Matamoros, Mexico. She believes girls should make art, have adventures, and read books that show them the way.

THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE is being published on 1st March 2012. 

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Exciting News: The Five Questions

This blog has been going two years on Friday - scary stuff really especially as I'm two years older than my original 15 year old self that started Rebecca-Books (did I ever say sorry for the totally NOT original name?)

Anyway, to honour my two years in the blogosphere, I am started a new feature here on Rebecca-Books where authors will answer five of the same questions (they will change over time, I promise!) about their latest book.
WHY? Well, I get a lot of emails from authors/publishers asking to review their book and I want to help them, but well, at college, there is LITERALLY no time after school to read for myself, let alone someone relying on me to read and review. So this feature is for those authors which I'm interested in but I don't have enough time to read their book.

I hope you all enjoy these interviews. This is kind of a trial run to see what happens but I would love for this to be incredibly popular so let anyone know if you think they would be interested - you will be my best friend for life, I mean it.

16th February - Mary Lowry, author of THE EARTHQUAKE MACHINE
23rd February - Meredith Zeitlin, author of Freshman Year & Other Unnatural Disasters
3rd March - Amy Lignor, author of The Angel Chronicles

Monday, 13 February 2012

Notes to Self - Avery Sawyer

Sometimes when authors/publishers ask me to review a book of theirs, I find myself thinking that this is wrong. I guess it's because before blogging (and partly during blogging), I just a normal person reading constantly that HAD to wait for all the best, upcoming, great books to come out in England, instead of America. Which sucks.

But now, even though when I find myself saying 'Yeah sure!' to a review request, it feels still weird and slightly wrong. But then I get to find books that I probably would never have known about and it helps me to love blogging and what I do.
This is one of those books. I felt bad saying yes to this interesting sounding book but then, I start reading and I feel so glad I said yes.
Blogging rules sometimes.

Synopsis: One windy night at the end of summer in Florida, two teenage girls climb up a roller coaster. Two fall down. Only one wakes up.
That one person is Robin who after a traumatic brain injury, she tries relearn who she is and find out what happened that night in order to try and help Emily, her best friend, wake up.

Review: This is one short read, I can tell you. But boy, is it intense.
The book starts with just before the fall and much like Robin, the narrative jumps to when Robin wakes up. From then on, we, and Robin, are trying to find out her past and more importantly, the accident itself where something is nagging Robin that if she remembers, it will save Emily. This all happens in a series of flashbacks throughout the book which piece together all our questions ending in the ultimate and last flashback - the fall.

I liked how Sawyer didn't reveal everything straight away to us - it made it a much more interesting read. I would say this story is unique, because in some ways I think it is especially the way it is done. But there are a   lot of books out there that reminded me of this one while reading - Speak and If I Stay to name a few.

This book takes some time to break in. At first, while reading, I didn't like it at all - I got annoyed at Robin and I found the hospital scenes disturbing and uninteresting. Not a good mix, I assure you. But when Robin finally gets out of hospital and starts to try and find out what happened, the story suddenly lifts up. The thing about Robin is that she is someone I could relate to.
So I haven't broken anything, had concussion or hurt in any way part of my brain, I felt and understood what she was going through. For me, her point of view is written like a typical teenager and the problem of her not remembering anything was linked with other teenage 'tragedies' such as not sure if you like a guy and people being mean to you at school. Maybe I got the wrong end of the stick or I totally lost the whole point - but that's what I felt. I related to Robin because her injury was linked with things I have gone through in my teenagehood.

Robin, I thought was going to be annoying. I feel bad saying this but I get annoyed when something happens to the protagonist and they whine on and on about their problems. I would be the same, I know, but still. Surprisingly, Robin wasn't. She got on with her life and I liked the determination to find out what happened on that night. Basically, what I'm trying to say is that Robin was a great narrator and I liked her character and the way she just got on with everything after the accident.

The writing was easy to read and flowed really well. There are a lot of chapters for such a short book and almost act as episodes. Despite this, the narrative was never snappy or broken up, it all flowed into a wondering book very well. Because of the episodes, it became very visual in my head while reading and I can totally imagine this as a movie in the way it is written.
Although I thought the opening could have been better, the ending...well, let's say that some may expect it happening, I did not. I had already made my decision on what happened at the end but this was changed completely.

Now, my problems. Wow, Josie is a total bitch and the way the people treat Robin when she returns to school, wow, that is harsh. At times I felt that the story seemed a little...dramatised. Like the way people treated Robin at school - yes it happens but I don't think it would have been that bad especially as they know about her brain injury. Another example is Susan (I won't reveal why) but I was like 'Seriously? That's a bit too coincidental. It was like Sawyer wanted to get the mother out of the story so introduced her.

NOTES TO SELF tackles multiple issues that teenagers have to deal with as well as the ultimate and tragic problem of brain damage - something we all fear and hope will never happen to ourselves and those around us. Avery Sawyer has successful created a book where people can somehow relate to Robin, even though she is in a rare situation. The writing and characters craft this book into something that I think most people would enjoy at any age. With the length of this book, I think everyone should read this book - even if it isn't totally perfect.
Verdict: I would give it a go - but I don't think it is everyone's cup of tea.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 107
Publisher: Self
Challenges: None

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Don't worry, I'm here and now aged 17...

So I know I've been a bit silent for a while - not my own doing I assure you.
I've been incredibly busy with a lot of coursework, work and just generally doing things so I haven't had much time or thought to post, sorry...

The most important thing that's happened for me in my absence is my birthday last Monday.
It's weird because before then, 16 seemed like SUCH a young age, like I didn't feel 16 anymore. But now, I'm 17 and that just seems even weirder. I mean, I'M 17. I CAN DRIVE?! I'm 18 next year? I'm going to be more of an actual adult?!

For those who are in their late teens, you'll understand much more than those that aren't. I'm still getting used to the fact I have a choice to learn to drive or not.
For my birthday, I got the only thing I truly iPhone. It was needed, my last phone was dying a painful death slowly and I was close to throwing it on the train tracks on my way to college.
With getting an iPhone (I now understand why people depend on their phones now) I got the essential apps for a teenager: Twitter and Facebook. So you followers will be seeing me tweeting pictures much much more. YAY :)

That's kind of it. I'm having a tea party tonight to celebrate my birthday and the start of my last year of being a true child. I'm here, don't worry.
Comment however and as much as you like, I read every single one and I check every day.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Patrick Ness Signing

Firstly, can I say that I love Foyles. Seriously have a passion for that bookstore.
I do have a special love for Waterstone's but wow. Foyles.

The Patrick Ness event was at Foyles in Central London and while browsing the shelves in the Fiction section beforehand, I kept finding all these books that I know about that I am desperate to read BUT CAN NEVER FIND. Like the whole Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, I want to read these American books but I don't have access to them here in England. But THEY'RE ALL IN FOYLES. That's where they keep them!
Sorry. Moving on. 

Anyway, I went to a signing with Patrick Ness and other authors in July 2010 and loved it as my first favour of a book signing (Click here for my post on that).
I know he does a lot of signings so I was keeping an eye out for any ones in London. I live on the outskirts of London so it only takes 20/30 minutes to get to the Central London. However, despite LIVING HERE, he does a lot of book events for festivals in places like Bath, Oxford and Edinburgh - not so close to London. 

So you can imagine my surprise and excitement when I found out he was launching the paperback of A Monster Calls at Foyles in...Central London. I reserved tickets within a day and was ready to go.

So on the 1st February, I went up to London after college and went to this event...with my dad (only person available to accompany me - he didn't mind - he found it entertaining). The event was incredibly interesting and it was great to find out about how Patrick Ness writes and thinks of his books. Jim Kay, the illustrator for A Monster Calls was also there and I found him equally interesting to hear what he had to say about his extraordinary drawings. 

The stage - the frames hold the drawings from the book by Jim Kay

After the interview and a few questions from the audience, Patrick Ness and Jim Kay started to sign the books from those in the audience. It's funny because in the queue when I was watching the people taking pictures, gushing over how much they love the book/drawings, I could tell which ones were bloggers, which ones just love books and especially Patrick Ness and those who would later write a story on the event. Exhibit A: the lady who was in front of me asked me to take a picture on her iPhone with both Patrick Ness and Jim Kay and I thought to myself as I pressed the shutter button 'I bet she's a blogger'. The next day whilst browsing Patrick Ness' Twitter, I found her photograph with him, followed the link to her own Twitter page and *dun dun dun* found her blog link. Off the subject but it was just funny to look at people and know what they're going to do afterwards. 

Anyway, back to the event. I am nervous when I am by myself talking to people I don't really know personally. So an author and illustrator aren't exactly the scariest people alive, it's still weird talking to them thinking 'They write/draw?' I don't know, authors to me don't look like authors. 
Patrick Ness asked me if I'd read the book (which I hadn't...yet) and I said no but that I'd read his other books and thought this was justification to come. So he replied he was glad I liked his other books and hope I enjoyed my evening. And that was it. 
I liked that he appreciated my appreciation for him. I really like it when authors are modest. 

Jim Kay had a equally thrilling conversation with me (I make my point that I don't know how to speak to authors/illustrators). He asked me how I was and excused his inky hands. I found them quite funny actually, the ink looked more like pen ink that print ink so it looked like he should be Patrick Ness...
His drawings are stunning I admit, I love a certain picture of a clock - it's just so detailed and looks to real on paper. 
So that was my signing with them. It was a great, funny evening. I really love books. And authors. And Foyles...

Please ignore my lovely red face - it was a bit hot in there &
had been awake since 6.30am

The paperback of A Monster Calls comes out the 2nd February 2012. 
Click here for Patrick Ness' website. 
Click here for Jim Kay's website
Click below for the links to my reviews of the Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

Dash & Lily's Book of Dares - Rachel Cohn & David Levithan

This is one of those books that English bloggers and readers have to deal with, book wise. I first saw the rave for this book last year when it was very BIG on the blogosphere. I read review upon review - all by American bloggers - and fell in love with the sound of this book. However, there are certain books in America that well, stay there. And living in England with all these great books not avaliable is a little annoying.
Considering this, imagine my excitement when I finally have access to a copy. My friend was reading The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, quite openly in my English class. When I go to sit next to her to talk, I see this book and gush about how much I loved John Green. After our ramble on how much we loved Paper Towns, my friend then said 'I also have this book too, it's very good' and puts out Dash & Lily's Book of Dares.
I'm not quite sure what or how I said it but I think it came out like 'OH MY GOD, I REALLY WANT TO READ THAT BOOK. PLEASE CAN I BORROW IT, PLEASE?!' Looking back, not the politest thing I could have said but I got my point across and she gave it to me, happily. Ah. I love her right now...

Synopsis: 'I’ve left some clues for you. 
If you want them, turn the page. 
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.'

Whilst browsing through his favourite book store, Dash comes across a red Moleskine notebook, and so begins the book of dares as Dash gets to know the girl behind the notebook. Lily places her red Moleskine notebook, waiting for the right guy to come along and find it and accept her dares. But is Dash the right guy? Will they just continually keep passing clues to places in New York City? And what will happen when they finally meet?  

Review: This book is one of those that is just a little different to anything else I have read. For starters, rarely do you see two authors of one book, like David Levithan and Rachel Cohn. Additionally, there are few books out there that contain dares that bring you, as a reader, to different parts of a major city, such as New York. And mainly, I hardly ever read books where at the end I'm like 'I wish these people were real'. This is such a realistic book, everything seems like it COULD happen and by the end, my friend and I agreed that we wished Dash and Lily were real people because...well, I'd want to know them.

As you can tell, I loved the characters of Lily and Dash - both I found interesting to read about, although for some unknown reason I preferred David Levithan's (Dash) chapters more. The other minor characters didn't just fade into the background after a while or were normal, boring people themselves. No, they were all very unique and different and all had an original spark so it never felt like they were two characters depicted the same way. My personal favourite was Boomer, as I'm sure many people would say. I just COULD NOT STOP LAUGHING. He was absolutely hilarious. Another favourite was Boris -  the dog. There's a scene where he runs off and, without revealing too much, ah, you'll be in stitches, I was laughing so much.

One of my only problems with this was the language, especially for David Levithan's (Dash) chapters. Dash has a lot of knowledge and loves words and books. To put it finely, I had no idea what he was talking about half the time and I'm surprised Lily did understand him. My advice: keep a dictionary with you for his chapters because I guess you might need it. 
Apart from that the language was vivid, especially in the key scenes in New York. I went to New York in October time when they were getting ready for Thanksgiving so I understand the craziness of Macy's and FAO Swartz. I can see the tourist traps in Central Park and Times Square. I can see the attraction of an unknown book store or pub. All of which visited in this book. The places are described incredibly well that even if you hadn't been there, anyone can get a feel for the atmosphere if you were there. I loved that about this book.

The romance could be a little bit more, personally. Conversely, I did feel that feeling where you want to shout at them 'KISS ALREADY!' which Dash and Lily both feel themselves. However, I think if there was this full-on romance, the book wouldn't haven been as good. The point is they meet under these strange and original circumstances where romance has to develop, you don't just feel this straight away. Being the age of Lily and Dash, I totally understood both their viewpoints on love and previous relationships. What they say may seem petty or 'too-grown-up' for them, but being a teenager, Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have got it spot on - these are the feelings and thoughts teenagers have while in relationships. 

Overall, this book is wonderful. You get taken into the narrative straight away and keep this engagement with Lily and Dash and actually really get to know them and want them to get what they want. This book is incredibly original - one that cannot be copied. I would recommend this to anyone for the great writing, plot and characters. This is a book that will make you smile. 
Verdict: You'll love it  - but remember a dictionary. 

I give it a 4 out of 5

Pages: 260 
Publisher: Ember - an imprint of Random House
Challenges: None