Friday, 31 August 2012

New Girl - Paige Harbison

Yesterday, I posted my review of Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier which I loved.
I wasn't going to write a review for that book until I read this.

When I found out this was a modern retelling of Rebecca, I was interested straight away especially with my small connection to the original title.
I have to admit that it took me a while to read this book as I felt I should read the original before going for a retelling. So when I caught the Rebecca fever after reading du Maurier's gothic romance, I decided it was time to try New Girl.

These are the US and UK covers. In all honesty, I cringe at the bright colours and just childish feel of the UK cover (right). I mean where in the book does she wear stripy socks and pink shoes? The US cover (left) is much more understated and is recognisable for anyone that had read the book. I prefer it so much more.

Synopsis: New Girl starts at the prestigious private Manderley Academy in her last year of high school, this has been her dream school since she was 13. However, she is not as welcomed as she might have hoped as she took the only place left open when Becca Normandy went missing four months previously. Living in the same room, same bed, same roommate, New Girl finds herself being constantly compared to the popular, pretty Becca. With everyone seeming to be blaming her for Becca's disappearance, New Girl finds comfort in the only person who doesn't - Max Holloway - Becca's boyfriend when she disappeared. She is told they were madly in love and New Girl is merely replacing her until she comes back. Because everyone thinks she is still alive, waiting for the right moment to return...

Review:
**I'm going to say now that I think some of things I am going to say may be interpreted as harsh and mean. I do not mean it in an offensive way - I am merely displaying my thoughts. If you have any issues with the following, please do feel free to let me know and I will correct them. I am just being honest**

My main thought after reading this is that Daphne Du Maurier must be turning in her grave. 

I really wanted to like this. I love contemporary. I love a little romance. And it's based on a novel which I have a new-found love for. This should have been great. However, I found it far from great.

Okay, there were some good bits. I mean, it can't have been that bad with the fact I read to the end. Despite my main emotions and opinions throughout reading, I was involved in the plot - I did want to know how it ended. I did want to see what had happened to Becca. I did want to see the outcome for the main protagonist greatly. I did want her and Max to get together in the end. So, in that aspect, this book was good. The plot does suck you in a little and if all the things I didn't like about this book (which I will come onto later) weren't there, I think I would love and cherish this book much more. In fairness, Paige Harbison sucked me into the story - that's one of the main things to do when writing, right?

So that's the main good thing I found about this book. However, all the bad things I didn't like quite possibly weigh down that. I'm just going to list them because that will stop my rambling.

  • I found it all a bit forced and fake. This was not real life. Far from it. I didn't feel like any of the events that happened in this book would ever happen. The way I interpreted the blurb was that this being a modern retelling would also make it even more relatable for a new generation. Rebecca was a hit with its generation and parts of the novel can still be used as examples today. That was one of the things that made it a bestseller - it's relatability. That aspect was totally lost here. Some events seemed totally random and I was lost at points when this happened. It just felt like the novel hadn't been totally thought through. 
  • Moving on from the above, the writing. What sums it up for me is what Ria from The Beaucoup Review said about this: 'I found that there wasn't enough detail in the writing, at all. It seemed like a story plot, or a list- this happened, then this happened and 3 months later this happened. The lack of detail, for me, kind of ruined the story'. That is true. This, for me, wasn't a story or a plot or anything. It was an episodic chapter of events that happen to link to one another. 
  • I hated most of the characters. No, every single one. I can rant for a long time on these characters. I hated Rebecca, sorry Becca. I hated Max. I hated the protagonist! The only one I vaguely liked was Blake, only because I want her as my best friend. I feel like I should hate Max and Rebecca - you do at points throughout the original. But Becca? Serious bitch in this. I'm glad Harbison has kept the revelation of Rebecca for me of being a lovely, popular person on the surface but actually done so much damage. I felt I should like the heroine, you're supposed to feel for her right? I didn't. I thought her frivilous, silly and just really unrelatable. She also seemed to change personalities from her Florida self to her Manderley self. It just seemed all a bit bizarre.
  • How is this based on Rebecca? The thing that drew me to this book was the fact it was based on a classic, Rebecca. Although, it is clear from reading both books that New Girl's plot and a limited amount of characters is loosely based around Rebecca, there was too much that was so far from Rebecca. The ending was like the 'alternative ending' to Rebecca that nearly happens in the original. Throughout reading it felt that the author had taken the basic plot of Rebecca, the setting and some of the names and made it an entirely different story. The original is a story of finding yourself and how secrets can twist things etc - THIS...not so much. Coming away from this book, this book was more about popularity and fitting in - like so many YA novels. 
  • Max and New Girl's relationship. IT WASN'T A RELATIONSHIP. Looking at their relationship throughout the novel, it didn't seem like one. They hardly knew each other and interacted maybe twice before they were suddenly a couple. It just seemed a bit more faked and forced. There was no romance. 
  • The tributes to Rebecca just...didn't work. At all. At first, with the description of Manderley Academy, I was thinking 'Oh great! They're going to have lots of little tributes that only readers of Rebecca will understand!'. Yeah that did happen. But that was as far as my excitement went. The characters had similar names to those in the original - Max Holloway (erm, what happened to de Winter?), Becca, Dana Veers (very clever) and then Johnny and Blake came along and I just got so confused. It took me the whole book to realise they were Jack Favell and Beatrice (Max's sister in Rebecca). Why change the names? Yes, these are more modern but surely Jack would be okay? Then, two teachers were named Van Hopper and Crawley, like from Rebecca. But they seemed pointless. Crawley, I felt should have been in it more. And Van Hopper? She appears once telling the class how they read a book a week and I was hoping, praying, that one time the book would be Rebecca. But she never appeared again, so that never happened. It was just so disappointing.
I think I may be coming from another point of view compared to most bloggers who have reviewed this. I have read and loved Rebecca and having read this straight afterwards with the plot fresh, it turned into more of a disappointment. 
I really wanted to love this book and there are good parts that I have mentioned within it. I also liked the double layer of Becca. I found Becca too extreme, too unlifelike. But I still liked to see this nice and not nice nature of hers. 
It was also nice to see her point of view on events that were relatable to what was happening to New Girl in the alternating chapter voices. Also, although not done in Rebecca, I did smile when New Girl's real name is revealed, especially as I have a friend of THAT name. It was so sudden! 

I had to start reading this as a unique different story and ignore the infuriating references to Rebecca and from that point of view, I may have liked this slightly more. I think I've outlined, hopefully without ranting, why I didn't like this book. The writing, the characters, just the plot didn't work for me, but that's not to say it won't work for someone else. Other bloggers have loved this. I just didn't. A lot. 

I give it a 2 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher for allowing me to view the e-galley via Netgalley

Pages: 320
Publisher: Harlequin Teen 
Challenges: None

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier

Rebecca holds a lot of value for me, even before I started this book for a number of reasons.
For starters, I think it's obvious that I was drawn to this book because of the title. For the record, I was NOT named after the book (as much I would love that). My name was a popular name in the 90's. According to my parents anyway.

Secondly, I won an award in my last year of secondary school. It was a governor prize awarded by the governors of my school, none of which I know. Basically, I won it because in the five years of my time there, my name kept cropping up for good reasons rather than bad. For the prize I got a trophy and £20 to spent on books of my choice. But they had to have a special value. I chose A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness because of the beautiful drawings included with the story and this, for obvious reasons.


So when I was asked by my college to read a 'Gothic Literature Novel' over the summer, I chose this (it's classed as a modern Gothic romance novel). I had been dying to read it to find out who was Rebecca. I was pleasantly surprised.

Synopsis: Working as a lady's companion in Monte Carlo, the heroine of Rebecca (who is never named) lives a dull life serving an ageing rich American heiress with no manners. This is until she meets Maxim du Winter, a wealthy English widow spending time in Monte Carlo after the death of his wife, Rebecca. After three weeks, she is proposed to by Maxim and taken from French society to the ominous Manderley where the legacy of Rebecca is being kept alive by the creepy housekeeper, Mrs Danvers, who instantly takes a dislike to the heroine. Her new husband changes from a bright, happy man to a dark, moody stranger and she is constantly compared to the old Mrs du Winter. Soon, the heroine starts to discover the secrets, mystery and lies behind Rebecca's life and death and how she can never compare to the Other Woman.

Review: Books I have to read for college, I normally don't review but I felt this time, I should.

I started this book doubtful and after reading the start very slowly, I was starting to doubt my choice and presumptions. That I think is because I was only reading it every so often, a long busy journey here, a quiet lunchtime at work there. My first impression was completely wrong.

This book gripped me from start (when it picked up which is around when she goes to Manderley) to finish. I was absorbed by the mystery of Manderley, Mrs Danvers, the heroine, Rebecca, Maxim - my, even the dog, Jasper has a little of mystery and past about him.
There is plenty of lies, deceit and mystery to be getting on with in this book alone. I can see why this was made into a Hitchcock film, merely for that alone.

I don't have much to say. But that isn't in a bad way. Rebecca is a book that kept me up in the waking hours wanting to know why Maxim changed in his return to Manderley. Why no-one used the west-wing.
The characters, the writing (very old fashioned but still easy to read), the mystery, the beautiful locations, the plot. This is the perfect book to wrap up in the winter in bed or by a fire on a snowy day and just do something simple and read. Although you grow hate for a few characters in this book, in the end, I found something about them that made me feel for them.

This book is about discovering yourself and how secrets and lies can cause the worst situations. Although dead, the character of Rebecca is someone I would never have guessed from the beginning. Your first impressions, like mine of the book, will change for every single character.

This is an incredibly short review because as this was published in 1938, I think everything great about this book has already been said by other critics and readers. These are merely my first and main reasons for loving this book.
A fact which I hope says why this is a great book, despite it being 74 years old is this: Rebecca has never gone out of print.

'Last night I dreamt of Manderley' - I think any reader will after reading this.

I give it 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.dumaurier.org/
Pages: 448
Publisher: Virago Press
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC


Tune back for my review of New Girl by Paige Harbison, a modern retelling of Rebecca

Monday, 27 August 2012

I'm Back!

I'm back! I went on holiday for 10 days to Spain as it's the summer holidays so I knew that I wouldn't have any internet aspects. It's that time of year again when all bloggers have a little time off to go on holiday for the summer I guess.

I have spent the morning catching up on my favourite blogs, commenting and replying to some of my own comments on my blog that have been published in the last few days. It was lovely to come back to so many!

So the next week holds some serious work both blogging and college. I have a ton of college work still to do by next week (ek!) and quite a few reviews to write that sound a little professional at least.
Here is a low-down on the books I read while I was away:

Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (I won't publish a review)
Pushing the Limits - Katie McGarry
New Girl - Paige Harbison (a retelling of Rebecca!)


Let me know what you thought of any of those books or what you, yourself are reading! See you soon!

Sunday, 19 August 2012

On My Bookshelf (26)

This meme for originally inspired by 'In My Mailbox' created by The Story Siren
Other versions are:
Letterbox Love created by Narratively Speaking
Stacking the Shelves created by Tynga's reviews
Showcase Sunday created by Books, Biscuits and Tea 

The books I had planned to read on my Kindle over my holiday won't seem like they're going to get a look in now. 


From Library:
- The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer. E. Smith - I've seen a number of reviews for this on the blogosphere and at work, it's incredibly popular. The idea of it seemed interesting, especially as I love to travel myself. It's a book I didn't mind reading but I wasn't bursting to do so. I have started this one already and it's good so far, although I'm sorry but Oliver is not British. His mannerisms and language seems too American for me at the moment. And he said Paddington was in West London. IT'S IN CENTRAL LONDON. West London is where I live and I'm no-where near Paddington!

- Extras by Scott Westerfeld - Ironically, I was returning Specials when I found this in the library. Normally, I by-pass the adult fiction section and breeze into the Teen section. However, that day I decided to have a quick look in the adult section (mostly because the library has air-conditioning and it was hot outside). I found this under R which I found a little bizarre. And of course, this is the last book in the Uglies series! Finished it in a few months, this is great! Have a look at my reviews for the first books in this series - Uglies (review), Pretties (review), Specials (review). 



Received:
- The Forsaken by Lisa.M. Stasse - Well, this was a surprise when it came through my letterbox this morning while I was munching on my cereal watching an episode of Glee. If you guys may remember, Lisa was in The 5 Questions (here) and when she asked me if I wanted a copy of her book, I never thought it would come from America! This is the US cover which I prefer MUCH more to the UK one. This has been getting some good reviews on the blogosphere so I may need to read this soon! 
Check this out if you see it, Lisa is lovely and this looks like it's going to be a big book - the next Hunger Games. 
Thank you Lisa again!



Have you read any of these? If so, what did you think? 



Thursday, 16 August 2012

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer.E. Smith

My reason for picking this up (although late after the initial hype) was mostly intrigue. I love a good old romance, like every other female teenage. However, I was intrigued to see how the title related to the book. I was intrigued to see the romance aspect of flying (an activity I think is far from romantic). And most of all, it just sounded like a book I would like. Reading the blurb online, I was thinking 'Sarah Dessen'. It's a book I've seen on the blogosphere, and I've seen at work, many girls buying it especially when it's on sale.
With myself dreaming of flying alone to exotic destinations when I left college next year, I think this was the right time to read Hadley and Oliver's story.

Synopsis: After a series of unfortunate events and delays, Hadley arrives at her gate to her plane to London Heathrow, where she is bridesmaid for her father's re-marriage to a woman Hadley has never met. Four minutes late watching the aeroplane rolling back towards the runway. In what seems like fate, Hadley gets a seat on the next flight in the same row as Oliver, an original Londoner going home. Soon they start talking in the airport, on the plane...both revealing hidden secrets. Set over a 24 hour-period, Hadley and Oliver discover and explore the probability of love at first sight.


Review: While some would describe this book as cute, I draw the line at sweet, I would define this as nice. Just lovely and nice. With sheep and rainbows (no sarcasm intended). This book is the perfect novel to indulge in, with chocolate on a night-in. The perfect novel just to sit back and relax while you enjoy and follow Hadley and Oliver's mad 24 hours.
So, I have to admit, I quite liked this book. The speed of the writing and pace. The real yet original characters. But most of all the romance.

I started this book a little apprehensive. I thought this book would be filled with cheesy lines, insta-love that you know would never happen in the real world and two characters that I would totally not care about at the end. Also, the title 'Statistical Probability', the science connotations from that compared with the fact its a love story - two totally contrasting things...I wasn't expecting magic to happen. However, I was pleasantly surprised.

The plot is not driven by mystery and intrigue to know of their lives, although there is a little bit of that which was minor. No, the plot is driven by this 'will they? won't they?' feeling that led me, at one point (and readers of the book will know which bit), to wonder why the book had 'love at first sight' in the title. I just wanted to get to the end to find out how/will they get together, what's Hadley's reaction at the wedding to her father's new wife etc.

While the characters, like I said, were believable yet had this hint of originality to them and I can honesty say I was so emotionally caught up whether they would be a couple by the end of the book, while that all happened, I have to admit that I didn't believe in Oliver's English-ness. This is written by an American author and I have to admit, she admits that in the early drafts she had Oliver said 'yard' instead of 'garden'.
I'm English. I was born this and lived in London my whole life. I do not speak 'lyke dis init' - I know I have a posh accent. Which made me perhaps the greatest critic of Oliver's 'English-ness'. He wasn't English to me. Although there was no point where he said 'yard', 'sidewalk' or 'garbage' (it's rubbish!), his mannerisms and the way he acted seemed too...not English. We English folk would never strike up a conversation with someone we didn't know on public transport (ah, the delights of the Tube) so I found it a little weird how Hadley and Oliver first meet - by him striking up a chat.
On another note, the geography of London was also a little wrong. Paddington is NOT West London, it's a stones-throw from Hyde Park, which is definitely Central London. The descriptions of Paddington seemed like a small town in the suburbs, not somewhere with one of the busiest trains stations. That part seemed unbelievable to me however, I have a feeling I'm nit-picking.

The characters were refreshing to have and acted as real teenagers should. The only problem with this book for me was the lack of Oliver's 'Englishness', the geography described of London and the unrealistic ways of meeting each other. Hadley re-finds Oliver at one point and it just didn't quite convince me. I don't think someone would either do that or be so lucky to find the person they were looking for.

Despite the unlikeness of the some of the events, this is a heart-warming tale where little things like that don't seem to matter. If no-one aww's at any point while reading this, they have no feelings. Oliver and Hadley create a lovely partnership with Hadley being the sensible, strong protagonist who is just a little unlucky to start off with and learns the error of her ways, like every teenager. (finally!). Oliver is ever the gentleman, even to old ladies. We see two sides to his personality which I liked and made him seem more realistic. These two stick out for being real. Not for being fake like some YA books. These two learn things that I think we all can learn - not about love at first sight, but stereotypes (step-mother is prime example) and liking people for who they are. And not all first impressions are bad.

This novel brought back the romance of travelling for me, something we have all long forgotten (remember Panam!) For romantics and dreamers alike, this is a love story that will stay with me merely for showing me that perhaps love at first sight is possible. You just have to keep your eyes open looking for it.
For such a short read, it's totally worth it.

I give it a 4.5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.jenniferesmith.com/
Pages: 215
Publisher: Headline
Challenges: None

Related Links:
- Apparently this may be made into a movie? Can totally see this! - have a look here

Words cannot fathom my bewilderment.

Hello! I hope everyone is well.

The last few days have been a whirlwind, especially this morning. This post is just a little update on what's been going on!


  • So. This morning. If you follow me on Twitter (@rebeccabooks), you may have seen my frantic tweets and counting down to the results of my AS level exams that I took in May. If you are an older follower, you would have also been subjected to my rants and worrying tweets/posts on how badly I thought I would do and subsequently, my lack of blogging. But it's cool! It turned out alright in the end. 
  • After the grand total of 4 hours sleep as I awoke worrying and feeling violently sick, I decided to, what the heck, just check the results at the designated time they would appear: 6am. So yeah I've been up since 5. I was shocked. Actually, I still am. I cannot believe what I found there this morning (by the way, we use the internet to see our results). 
        • Classics: A - While telling my mother I would be happy to get a C in Classics, a subject I have grown to despise, hate and just generally have no interest in since getting a D in January, I was faced with coming out with my ordeal of the subject with no less than...an A. I GOT AN A IN CLASSICS. I hate Classics. I'm dropping it in September. I never listened. And I got a flipping A. Words cannot fathom my bewilderment. 
        • Media Studies: A - I love Media, it is what I want to do in university. But the fact I didn't finish the paper, didn't understand the unseen text and came out the exam on the verge of tears, I somehow managed, oh you know, 97/100! Don't ask me where those marks sprang from. 
        • History: B - Meh, I expected this even if in the exam the source didn't even say what the question was asking. Also, sorry anyone that is religious, but because of the history option I chose (Tudors), I am going to be an atheist by the end of the year with the amount of religious history I'm learning this year. Urgh. I hated RS. 
        • English Literature: B - being a book blogger, I think it would have been awkward and embarrassing to get a bad grade in this. I had one of the worst teachers, did one of the worst books I have ever read (don't make me start my Enduring Love rant again) and I left with my fellow English students feeling something dark at the pit of my stomach - no-one thought they did okay. But securing a B-nearly-A - I literally and totally do not understand how I got that. At all. I am beyond surprised.


  • The only other news really is that I won't be posting or around the next week and a bit. I have scheduled some posts one post. And hopefully I'll write a review today. If I do get a chance, I'll have a look at your comments, but I may not reply! Thank you anyway, keep hanging in there and have a lovely summer - or what's left of it. I'll see you when I get back. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Specials - Scott Westerfeld (#3)

**There may be some spoilers for anyone that has not read the whole of the Uglies series: Uglies #1 (review) and Pretties #2 (review)**


For the last few months, I have been tackling a series which I have spent years and years acknowledging my interest and adding to my to-read list, yet never actually reading this set of books. This the third and final book in the trilogy that was first planned for this series. However, afterwards, the series was made a quartet with the addition of Extras which is set a few years after the original trilogy with a different protagonist in a different city.
This series has been fantastic so far, action-packed, fast-paced in a world of mystery, intrigue, lies and secrets. It's far to say the last two books have been far from boring. As a recap, Tally lives in a world where once you turn 16, you are made into a Pretty and live in New Pretty Town where all you do is basically party and drink. And party some more. However, runaways have gone missing for years around their sixteenth birthday, meaning they stay an Ugly and don't go under the knife in extreme cosmetic surgery to become this perfect Pretty. Tally meets Shay, an Ugly with the same birthday as her in Book #1 and she discovers this place for runaways as well as secrets about her own world. This trilogy has watched Tally turn from Ugly to Pretty and now, finally to Special. It's far to say my expectations were pretty mountainous.

Synopsis: Specials Circumstances were once words that sent a chill through Tally when she was an Ugly and Pretty. The Special Circumstances were an elite secret group which no Ugly or Pretty knew were true or merely a myth. They were reserved to help out and monitor the most disastrous special circumstances. But now, Tally is one of them and become a fighting machine. However, underneath the intense speed, strength and new found focus and clarity of vision and mind, there is something nudging at Tally's heart. Something - or someone - she has to remember. Tally's job as a Cutter is to take down the New Smoke forever, a part of Tally's personal history. Will she listen to her heart or will she do what she is programmed to do?

Review: I loved the Uglies series and overall the imagination and originality of Scott Westerfeld's writing of this fascinating and intriguing world. However, I have to admit I was a little disappointed for the climax of the trilogy.

As I mentioned in my Pretties review, there was something lost from Tally when she turned into a Pretty. In Specials, I expected the Tally that is in the latter part of Pretties, although as a killing machine Special. I was wrong. For me, Tally lost more from Pretty in her personality, she is hardly the person she was at the end of Uglies. She seems very naive and like a sheep, taking people's orders, even near the end when really, she shouldn't be like that (without revealing too much). I loved Tally's strong and individual personality in Uglies and in Pretties, but here in Specials, I felt nothing for her, she seemed a rather mediocre character to me.

Another character that I had strong feelings throughout this series about was Shay, a on-off friend of Tally's. I found her so irritating the whole way through, even when she was an Ugly. Here, for the majority of the novel, she is the same old Shay. Annoying, power-hungry and thinks she's oh-so-amazing. However, there is a twist in her character near the end of the book which I liked and I ended the novel with Shay completely redeemed. It was a nice way to end like saying 'Yeah, there are two sides to people'.
The other cast of characters all have something alarming and different about them compared to their portrayal in the other two books. I found that Zane, David, Fausto and Peris became almost like background characters, although they have all made an impact on Tally's life. I would have liked to see more of them.

Despite all my negativity so far, this book still holds what I found the most interesting and entertaining in the first two books of this series. The world. The world is so detailed in Uglies, although less, admittingly, in Pretties and Specials. Yet, this world is shockingly similar to both perhaps our futures and now. All three of these books have held revelations about Tally's world from Tally's own city to the wild to now a different city. What I also liked about Specials was the subtle hints to exactly where in America this trilogy has been set in. There are mentions of Death Valley and San Diego which makes me think that Tally's own city is either Los Angeles or Las Vegas, both of which I find quite ironic. For real Uglies fans, it's great to know finally where this is set after the mystery before.

The writing was clear, especially with some phrases from Tally's world that you might not necessarily understand. The way Scott Westerfeld writes makes it easy to work out what that means. Although at times when describing objects or actions, I was a little lost, overall, I had no problems with his writing.
Now, having read the whole series, it is clear to see Scott Westerfeld's message. In this series of books, he uses our future to tackle issues of today - war, self-harming, appearances, bullying, drugs are all aspects that crop up in this book alone that send a hidden message for those looking between the lines. So cleverly done for those that are truly paying attention.

Overall, I found the reason for reading Specials to the end was to complete Tally's story for myself. I wanted to know what happened to this world and Tally's decision at the end (which I also found a little disappointing although nice). The ending for me, seemed to just end like Westerfeld didn't know what else to say. In short, this book was disappointing and I found Uglies and Pretties much more engaging and just, better.
This book is made for true Uglies fans and although some parts I feel could have been better, there is plenty more to excite, worry and entice you. This is one action-packed series that I'm so glad I finally read.

I really hope this series gets made into a movie - I think it would be amazing.

I give it a 3 out of 5

Author's Website: http://scottwesterfeld.com/
Pages: 384
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Challenges: None

Related Posts: 
Review: Uglies #1
Review: Pretties #2
Review: So Yesterday (also by Scott Westerfeld)



Monday, 6 August 2012

Signings coming up in England

One major plus of being a book blogger is finding out about bookish events, especially if they're held at bookshops. The delight on seeing the people behind the book you devoured, cherished and then passed on to all your friends. The sentimentality that your own copy of this book has been signed especially for you. Something you want to have forever. The pictures were you look absolutely horrible but still, nice to have something saying 'Yeah, I was there'. These are the things that make me want to go and meet the author at a lovely afternoon/evening spent in the presence of people who also love them.

After arranging to go the Maureen Johnson evening at Waterstones Guildford (and that not happening - have a look here if you don't know what I'm talking about), I received an email from the lovely Jessica who is in charge of events there. She informed me of the major events coming up at the store in the near future and I was so in AWE of some of them. Like 'How on earth have they got them to come into a signing!?'. Anyway, I think Jess and the team from  Guildford deserve a post to inform, yes YOU, of some of the great events coming up.

Guildford? Where's that? I hear you cry. It's outside London, but not too far. As long as you can get to Clapham Junction, you're hunky dory.
If you want more information, have a look on the Waterstones website (here) or email Jess at events@guildford.waterstones.com.

(Arranged in chronological order)

An Evening with Philippa Gregory
I know! Philippa Gregory! This is the launch of her new book, The Kingmaker's Daughter which is set during the War of the Roses (sadly I know many things about that period from History). She's also be talking about her research, career and all her books overall so for those who have a copy or enjoyed her first Young Adult book, Changeling (on my to-read!) then, I'm sure she'll be happy to sign them too.

WHERE: Holy Trinity Church, Guildford
WHEN: 16th August at 7pm (get in quick!)







A Fan Event with Derek Landy
I've never read any of his book although I'm quite aware of them. We once played the beginning of Skulduggery Pleasant as an audiobook at my old school and it sounded quite interesting. This seems like one for the boys!
Here, Landy will be talking about the whole of the Skulduggery Pleasant as well as launching the most recent book in the series, Kingdom of the Wicked, AND doing a signing. A great way to end the summer holidays!

WHERE: Waterstone's Guildford
WHEN: 13th September at 7pm






And last but not least. This is one event I am so jealous of that I can't attend...

An Evening with John Boyne
Yes. John Boyne. The guy who bought you The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (my review). A book I think every child should read.
I remember this librarian coming in in Year 7 (6th grade) and saying she was reading this book. She said she has told the other class before lunch that she knew what was going to happen. Then, while reading it over lunch, her predictions were very very wrong. This is just...I can't recommend this book enough. So cute, yet so sad.

Copies of this book are being re-released with a different cover as well as many others such as Peter Pan in the new World of Stories collection. This event is for the launch as well as for Boyne to answer any questions and of course, sign your book.
Go. For me. AH, this is one event I would have run to.

WHERE: Waterstones Guildford
WHEN: 30th October at 7pm

Friday, 3 August 2012

Debutantes - Cora Harrison (#1)

I discovered Cora Harrison a couple of years ago when I picked up I was Jane Austen's Best Friend (review) after choosing it as 'the other book' in one of the classic Waterstone's 3 for 2 and found myself pleasantly surprised by the depth of knowledge on Jane Austen, the subtle parodies and hints of Austen's own novels and just the lovely simplistic writing that made it perfect for a summer read on holiday.
I also bought the sequel, Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend (huge cringe at the title) which I am yet to read.

I had no idea that Cora Harrison, one of my favourite historical fiction writers, was releasing a new book until I saw this pop up on one of the blogs that I follow in their In My Mailbox etc.
Knowing this, I was so surprised to wander into my library, glance at the 'Teen' section and see this one a stand facing me. I picked this up without a hesitation to say the least.

Synopsis: The date is 1923 and London is the centre of jazz, parties, fashion and dance. Not that sisters Violet, Daisy, Poppy and Rose Derrington know as they find themselves stuck in crumbling house in the country in hand-me-down dresses without any heritage or money - they are desperate to be apart of this sparkling world for different reasons to pursue their dreams: Daisy wants to be a film director, Poppy aspires to be a jazz musician, Rose an author while their eldest sister, Violet, dreams of  being a Debutante and be presented at Buckingham Palace and meet the bachelor Prince George...
However, Daisy finds many of the hidden secrets of their estate which could ruin their future plans or everything together.

Review: The thing that gripped me from when I first heard about this novel is the fact it's set in the 1920's but not the conventional 1920's America - oh no - London, England. I get the sense from reading various books set in the 1920's and nearly ALWAYS in America, that people tend to forget that the jazz, sparkle and glitz associated with the 1920's didn't only happen in America. So America had speakeasies, Prohibition, gang culture. London was the fashion capital. It had the young men of the Royal Family. The BBC. Dancing. Technology. And Debutantes.
For those that are unfamiliar what a Debutante actually is, simply, a Debutante is a young lady normally from an aristocratic family that 'comes out' once they turn 18 in the hope of finding a husband. We have to remember the 'teenager' wasn't invented until the 1950's so once you turned 18, that's it - you're an adult. A debutante would host a coming-out ball where they would invite lots of other single aristocratic young people and then also be presented to the King and Queen at Buckingham Palace by a relative/friend who was previously a debutante themselves. Simply, it was the chance to have a social life for a few months before going back to your country estate in Kent.
So why am I not getting my gear on soon for my own coming out ball (not that I'm a Lady or anything)? Well, the notion of the debutante was abolished in the 1950's when our current Queen came to the throne.

Anyway. The book.
As I said, I liked the original setting of 1920's London - a place which many people know not that much about. There is a clear sense that Harrison has done her homework in regards to researching the atmosphere, etiquette and fashions of the day for a new debutante. Not only do you read about the world of being a debutante or indeed just living in the 1920's but also you experience the atmosphere of the time. This seemed like a true portrayal of the time. The elegance of the cover also transpires to the narrative.

I think the characters are what make this book. The four sisters that the plot is centred around are so different to one another which makes sure as a reader, there is at least one you could connect with. For me, it was Daisy. The four girls represent certain aspects of the time in my opinion - the jazz culture, the film industry of Hollywood, the rise in journalism from the creation of the BBC and then, the traditional aspects that stayed back of the society such as Violet's ambition to be the perfect debutante.
I begun this novel expecting a third person narrative looking at all the four sisters, perhaps in alternative chapters, or at least centred and narrated by Violet suggested from the title of the book. However, I was surprised to find the third person narrative focussed on Daisy. I liked this aspect in a way as this wasn't bias as it would be from the point of view of Violet and also, you get to learn more of the film industry from Daisy's knowledge of films and Hollywood. It made it really interesting to see how they made these films and how they critiqued them!
My problem with the narrative was it was quite confusing at times. All the sisters are of course 'she' so at times it was confusing to see which 'she' the 'she' was referring to especially if one of the other sisters had been speaking. It made it seem like they were doing the action when really it was Daisy. My other problem was the emphasis on Daisy. Because of this, the sisters are times were swept aside to focus on Daisy or Violet. The times Rose made an appearance, she was charming and brought humour to the book. Violet was portrayed as selfish and stuck-up to make you instantly love Daisy. Violet is an interesting, mixed emotions character and I felt that could have been played on more. I also felt Poppy's romance and problems would have been played on more too.

The vivid descriptions that run through continually make this a pleasure to read and I could imagine the scenes perfectly in my head, especially Justin - their friend. The dresses, the rooms and the actions are presented in a way to make them incredibly clear. I can easily see this made into a movie.

It's fair to say that the mystery of Elaine also tops this novel. There are clever hints and messages run through the book, some of which the reader would notice, others not. The ending I did predict but the surprises leading up to it I did not. This is a book that will both surprise you and give you a chance at being your own Sherlock Holmes.

Overall, it's clear that I enjoyed this novel because of it's sparkling, remarkable detail of the Derrington sisters world of 1920's London, a setting not used much in historical fiction. The characters are all so unique and different to one another and give you a sense of a large family group such as theirs (I'm an only child so I wouldn't know). The mystery, secrets and deception that underlay this novel has been executed superbly that leave you with at least some surprises at the ending. This is a novel for any fans of Downton Abbey - Violet seemed awfully like Mary at times and Justin as Matthew. This also seemed to me as a younger version of The Luxe series by Anna Godbersen.
This is supposed to be a series but the ending last lines give an air of finality to me so it will be interesting to see what the next novel's plot with centre around.

Fans of Downton Abbey or The Luxe, get this. This is the perfect summer read.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website: http://www.coraharrison.com/
Pages: 320
Publisher: Pan Macmillian
Challenges: BBC, Historical Fiction

Related Posts:
The Luxe: Splendor - Anna Godbersen
Bright Young Things - Anna Godbersen
I was Jane Austen's Best Friend - Cora Harrison

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Mini Review: What Happened To Goodbye - Sarah Dessen

First thing first.
Sarah Dessen rocks my socks. Quite literally. She is just...something special and she has produced some of the best and most enjoyable books I have ever been fortunate to read.
Simply, I'm a massive fan. I would be the person at every home country game who decides that they're love for the team is a good enough excuse to dress head to toe in said country's flag. Even the face paint is not a problem. I think we all know the type of people I mean, if not - have a look at an England game, there are normally quite a few.

Anyway. Because of my love for Sarah Dessen, as I admitted in my review for John Green's The Fault in Our Stars (review), when you love an author or book so much, no words, despite how long you ponder upon them, no words will ever be enough to express your thoughts and feelings. Which is why I don't review Sarah Dessen's book normally. I will never do a review decent enough for Along For The Ride, Just Listen or The Truth About Forever - especially the latter.
That is also why this is a short review. Because a full length one would have a huge picture of this book and me looking WAY too attractive (I'm thinking eyes scrunched up, mouth wide open, teeth and all with a look of a mixture of happiness/excitement/pleasure/pure insanity - nah, not on the internet) and a gushy crappy few paragraphs. I cannot do that for my love for Sarah Dessen. Dessen, - you rock, don't stop.

Synopsis: Since her parents messy divorce and mother's affair public scandal, Mclean has constantly been moving from town to town, from house to apartment to house, from school to school due to her father's job who renovates restaurants. And from person to person. In fact, in the past places she has lived, she has left behind 4 completely different girls - Eliza, Lisbet, Beth and the original Mclean - pre-divorce. However, when Mclean moves to the next town, Lakeview, she discovers she just wants to find her true self. She finds some great friends, especially from her neighbour, Dave. With new friends, new experiences and a new person, Mclean starts to enjoy her life, as if it's not temporary. Soon something happens that blows this up, leaving Mclean with a decision - turn her back on this life she loves or stay.

Review: As I said at above, I could basically fan-girl about this women for a few paragraphs and call it a review so this is literally going to be short but sweet. 


Lovers of Sarah Dessen: listen up.
People who have never read A Sarah Dessen Novel: Seriously?! You're missing out. Find Just Listen or The Truth About Forever STRAIGHT AWAY.

Ah. There is just something extraordinary about Sarah Dessen's writing. Something absolutely magical and compelling that creates something that you devour. It is always a pleasure to read one of her books with its beautiful mix of realistic and original characters, the familiar settings and the clever and imaginative links to her other books.

For LoSD (Lover's of Sarah Dessen), this book is full of cameos from her previous books that make this a joy to spot them. These include the appearances of Isabel (Last Chance, Along for the Ride), Heidi and Thisbe as a toddler (Along For the Ride) as well as a visit to the Last Chance cafe. There's also a subtle sneaky cameo of Owen and Annabel (Just Listen) fighting over some music on an iPod. 
The most surprising cameo for me was Jason, appearing originally in The Truth About Forever and Along for the Ride, who works at Luna Blu in the kitchen with a completely different personality - one Macy would approve of more methinks. LoSD, I tell you, I didn't think it was him - I thought it was ANOTHER Jason. But no...

The characters are as good as ever, the heroine as realistic and loveable as ever set with beautiful writing from someone who just does this so well.
This is a book that I can't say much about really. Just, read it. Perhaps not was good as some of Dessen's past novels, but she's definitely still got her writing groove.

Have a look at some other reviews for this book:
- The Beaucoup Review
- The overflowing library
- Cicely Loves Books

I give a 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://sarahdessen.com/
Pages: 402
Publisher: Penguin
Challenges: None

Related Posts:
Dreamland - Sarah Dessen
Infinity - Sarah Dessen
Tuesday Top Ten: Books for fans of Sarah Dessen

Looking back at JULY

Previous months: 
February
March
April 

May

June

Ah, it's August already?! July was a pretty busy month - not as busy as May or June were though. I finished my first year at college and next month, I'm entering the last year of being in a 'school' with the next year is full of university applications, coursework and A2 exams. It's going to be more stressful to say the least.
Also, at the beginning of July I won an award at my college for my work in Media this year which was amazing, especially as it's the subject I want to do at university.
So, now I'm on my summer holidays, in week 4 at the moment, and it seems all I've been doing is reading and watching TV with the Olympics in my home city. As I type this, I'm watching the Rowing and the GB just won a Gold which is absolutely amazing. The Olympics is the best way to gain some patriotic feeling for your country!

On the university front, I've visited Oxford Brookes, which is on the outskirts of Oxford. It's so lovely there and they're modernising part of it which would be open when I go there. I went there on a warm summer's day and it made it look so great. Ah, this is going to be such a hard choice when the time comes!

In the world of blogging, I've now reached 95 followers which I can't begin to tell you, how happy I am and some of the comments I receive really makes me so proud to be doing blogging and how happy I am that I've stuck with it. Thank YOU.


Reviews:

I also read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley for college which I have to admit wasn't too bad. It was very different to what I thought the book would be like such as Frankenstein isn't the name of the monster but of the creator. If you do read it, please let me know if you agree that Victor Frankenstein is the more annoying, dramatic and SO WIMPY character you have ever read about. Urgh.
I also read FINALLY Sarah Dessen's What Happened to Goodbye and there is a mini-review in the process of being written which I'll add to next month's 'Looking back'. Such an amazing book again by Miss Dessen, just so good and addictive. 


Memes:
Top Ten Tuesday: Books for Sarah Dessen fans
Top Ten Tuesday: Books I HAD to buy but yet to read

On My Bookshelf (22)
On My Bookshelf (23)
On My Bookshelf (24)
On My Bookshelf (25)


Author Interviews:
S.R. Johannes, author of Untraceable
Lisa.M. Stasse, author of The Forsaken


Other: 
Update


ALSO.
This month I was featured two posts by some lovely bloggers. Have a look, perhaps leave a comment on your own opinion. Thank you again to you both!

- Interview on Fluttering Butterflies for a feature, Awesome Women, on role models.
- A mention in Think Mystique in her review for Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver