Monday, 29 April 2013

What Has Been Happening Recently and a Break from the Blogosphere.

This is quite a hard post to write and perhaps the most personal I have written on the blog and hopefully will have to write.

This may explain some of my vague replies to 'How are you?' on Twitter by many lovely people and some of my recent tweets about how crap and hard life can be sometimes. This also partly explains the decline in posting in the last few weeks, which is coupled with exam stress/coursework stress/revision stress at college.
So here goes.

Since January, my family have been supporting my grandmother who was diagnosed as terminally ill with cancer since last summer. It's something I never thought would happen, I always thought she would get over it, she would live many more years, see me start and leave university, perhaps get married - I didn't know what to think really.
I'm sure many of you have known at least one person in your life that's been affected my cancer. It's an awful, terrifying thing and something that I can't dwell on for too long without feeling fearful for my own life. But the main part is that unless you experience the fight with cancer, either directly or through a close one, it's hard to illustrate or fathom the effects of it.
Anyway, I'm going off topic. My grandmother has been declining over the last few months but took a turn for the worse last week. And then finally, on Monday evening, she passed away. I have mixed emotions. Of course, I'm incredibly upset but also I am glad that she has both joined my grandfather who died a couple of years ago and also that she is not suffering anymore from the pain and everything. It's something I know she would have been glad to happen for those reasons.
I still can't quite get my head around the whole thing, can't quite imagine her not being there, not sending her a birthday card, a Christmas card, a Mother's Day card - it's something I've done for 18 years.

With this happening and effecting me, as well as the increasing stress of exams in FIVE WEEKS, I've decided to temporarily stop blogging for the next few months until June really. Blogging was always a side thing from my college and paid work and I think those two aspects of my life are enough to deal with right now especially as this year I HAVE to get into university and work harder for Media, the course I want to study, because my teacher is not...well, not the best teacher I've ever come across. I need to get a B at least in this exam and I'm not sure at the moment if I'll get that.

I'll definitely be reading so when I come back you'll have a magnitude of reviews thrown at you and you never know, I may still post the occasional review in the next few weeks, although nothing is planned yet. I just think blogging is starting to distract me from the important things in life - my work and my family.

I'll also still be around, checking and commenting on blogs and you can always find my on Twitter @rebeccabooks. The beauty of an iPhone is when I'm travelling or not doing anything or want a break from revision I have a little lookie on Twitter or play a game so I'll always see your tweets.

Good luck to all those who have exams in the next few months, I sincerely hope they go well. I hope all my loyal followers and friends understand my decision. This isn't forever. I WILL be back, just taking a break so I can come back better than before.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Embracing My Inner Geek

Last week, when Lucy from Queen of Contemporary asked everyone to join in with her relatively new and popular meme, Embracing My Inner Geek, I knew I had to join in partly because she is such a lovely blogging friend and also because...well, I am a geek, loud and clear.
You can still link your own posts for this meme, here.

It was only yesterday when it hit me on the way home from college at 5pm that 'Wait, I haven't written that post yet' and then the mental brainstorm commenced of ideas of what I could write my post about. Which is hard when you're thinking about other things like revision and homework (more about that in a post later this week).

I think as book bloggers, we sometimes forget about why we love books, the things we can talk about to a great extent with enthusiasm and passion. On the first line of my personal statement when I was applying to university, I initially wrote 'I am passionate about books' (which is like the worse way to start a personal statement) but that is kind of what it is that keeps me reading and keeps me blogging.

Books have been a major part of growing up with constant visits to the library in the school holidays with my Nan and being read stories from this treasury I was given when I was a baby (which I still have) by my dad. It's what defines my childhood rather than school or certain friends or toys but books.

I think one of the major attractions of books is the way you can immerse yourself in this world that can be so different from your own. Even if you have no romance in your life (*raises hand*), you'll always be able to find it in a book (I have to say my go-to for romance is Sarah Dessen...). If you just don't want to be in reality right now, which we all have those moments, then you can go to Panem or dystopian Chicago or the New World, they'll be waiting always for you.

Over the years I've had turbulent friendships with many different people, sometimes not even realising its happening. It's part of everyday life. But I understand when someone says 'Books are my friends' because well, a book isn't going to have an argument with you, it isn't going to say mean things behind your back - they are reliable and for me, they make me feel like me, make me comfortable.

As book bloggers show daily, books have the power to bring people together. I have a feeling that I'll be making friends at university with those that think books are cool or one of the first people I'll have a discussion about books with. While I'm at university, the third Divergent book and the Catching Fire movie will both be coming out and I sincerely hope, and am sort of expecting, to be fangirling over these with someone other than my friends back home. My two best friends now, we frequently have book discussions about certain genres or certain books (one of them got me into Divergent) and actually, all three of us work in bookshops now ironically.
I work at a bookshop with people who love and care about the book publishing industry which is great to see and to interact with them. We all love books and I think as a team that comes across to customers. That is essentially what I think Waterstones is about - sharing our love for books with others who also have a passion for books.

Books are what I hope shape the future for me. I wish that in 10 years time, I'll perhaps look back at this post, at age 28 (wow, that's a frightening thought), and be in a job in the publishing industry - happy to be surrounded by books and remember the happy moments I've had that are all to do with books.

Happy blogoversary, Lucy! And go check out her blog, it's one of the best around :)

Friday, 19 April 2013

Queen's Gambit - Elizabeth Fremantle

When I saw QUEEN'S GAMBIT on Netgalley, I knew it was a book that I needed to read. I've always been a fan of historical fiction, favourites being Mary Hooper, Marie-Louise Jensen, Eve Edwards - to name a few. It's hard to find good historical fiction I find now that aren't a gazillion pages long like Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel but are still historically accurate. When I settled down with this on holiday, I wanted an absorbing, detailed historical read that I would enjoy completely from beginning to end. I think I got what I wanted...

Synopsis: Katherine Parr, recently widowed for a second time, reluctantly is called to court to attend on Lady Mary Tudor, Henry VIII's daughter. After being married to two men, one very young and one much older than herself, Katherine's love for Thomas Seymour makes her hope she can finally marry for herself. However, under the ageing King and the power hierarchy infused with rumours and affairs at court, Katherine soon finds another man vowing for her hand in marriage.

Review: I would like to say I'm quite knowledgeable in Tudor history (although perhaps disputable) as it's the period I love the most and I'm currently studying Tudor England for my History exam in June - which happens to cover Henry VIII's last few years as King.
Katherine Parr is a wife many tend to forget about. She's the only one to survive (just), doesn't have a huge incest scandal around her like Anne Boleyn and didn't produce an heir like Jane Seymour and Catherine of Argon did. Quoting Katy Perry, I guess she's 'the one that got away'. However, really she has the most interesting story - widowed three times and then marrying someone rather younger than herself after being the Queen of England. Lots has been written about the other wives (perhaps not Anne of Cleves...) so I was quite interested to see how Fremantle would bring Katherine Parr to life.

In some ways, knowing the history very well for my exam, the novel became quite predictable and I wasn't surprised by the ending. So I think this book would be more enjoyable for those that don't know about her life after Henry VIII, how she died, what happened in her 4th marriage. It was still great to see the events come to life in an imaginative and interesting way that made the history I knew so much more realistic in my mind. As a reader, you are thrown into the dangerous, power-hungry world of the Tudors and shown the passions and calculated manoeurves of the courtiers and nobility that I think really defined the Tudor period. The relation to chess that Elizabeth Fremantle displays in the title is quite accurate to display the secretive, false world of court under Henry VIII and I think that was displayed beautifully.

Catherine is a character that I couldn't help but like. She's very practical yet has this vulnerable moments of emotions. I thought I wouldn't relate or sympathise with her as she is much older than I am currently, but I think because of the character that comes across the page, someone who understands and knows how to act in the world around them, made me feel a lot for her. Catherine is the main narrator, but there is also the addition of Huicke, her doctor and close friend, and Dot, her servant. It was interesting to have the narrative from all these different point of views especially as it is written in third person and although I was confused a few times at who was narrating, it becomes quite nice to have the change of point of view. It made the novel have a more realistic feel as you saw the events from three entirely different perspectives. Huicke and Dot were likable also, but I couldn't help thinking their characters are very similar to how Catherine Parr herself is portrayed.

The lovely aspect of this novel was the challenging views of some of the famous figures history has come to love or hate. While Elizabeth and Henry to some extent are shown largely positively throughout much of history, they are shown quite negatively in QUEEN'S GAMBIT with Henry are merely an old, temperamental man and Elizabeth as a young, selfish girl. Although it didn't entirely change my perspective of these figures, it was interesting and rather imaginative to see these characters in these different lights. Another person seen in a different light was Thomas Seymour. Wow, he is SLIMY. I didn't mind him too much in my history lessons but wow, you learn to hate him in this book. But that's all I'll say otherwise I'll ruin it (if you want more, Google him!)

Now to the narrative and actual writing. Looking back, the writing was...okay. I found it not very absorbing at times, it became quite repetitive but I did want to know what would happen next to Catherine on every page and I think it was that that kept me reading to the end. There was some sub-plots which seemed a little unnecessary for me but I still enjoyed reading this novel. Although I didn't have too much trouble keeping up with the names of the vast cast of characters, I can imagine that it would be hard for someone who has little knowledge of this period past the rhyme of Henry's six wives.

I have to say that my favourite part of this book was the way Elizabeth Fremantle really brings the history to life. This was an enjoyable book and I especially loved the portrayal of court, the underground, hidden dealings and spreading rumours that could cost a life. Although I don't think this book was perfect, it was a lovely read on holiday if you want something a little bit more serious but still an easy read. This is marketed I believe as an Adult Fiction book but in all honesty, it could be for anyone that wants to find more out about the Tudors. I will be looking forward to Fremantle's next book all about Lady Jane Grey, a figure I can't help but admiring and feeling some sympathy for.
I've loved the Tudor period for a long time now and I don't think that love will be leaving me very soon. This was a delightful read.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for letting me have the chance to review this book.

Author's Website:
Pages: 452
Publisher: Penguin
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC

More Great Books set in the Tudor period: 
VIII - H.M.Castor
The Other Countess - Eve Edwards
The Lady in the Tower - Marie-Louise Jensen

Monday, 15 April 2013

Dante's Girl - Courtney Cole

I requested this e-book on Netgalley quite a while ago yet even though I was approved straight away, it's taken me a while to finally read this. I'm not sure why I was so unsure about this, I really disliked the cover yet I'd seen a couple of great reviews for it and it sounded like the kind of book I would enjoy. Yet I was looking at all the galleys I've requested and haven't read yet the other day and this title caught my eye so I thought I'd finally give it a go. My reaction? Why did I wait this long?!

Synopsis: When Reece bumps quite literally into Dante at Amsterdam airport, she doesn't expect to see him again. However, after a freak volcanic eruption that has grounded all flights, Reece is taken to Caberra, an island just off Greece, with Dante who happens to be the son of the Prime Minster of Caberra. And lives in a palace. And happens to also be drop-dead handsome. Reece is a farm girl from Kansas, in a totally different league from Dante yet is that enough to keep them apart from one another. As Reece gets to know Dante and spend an amazing summer in the beautiful Caberra, she starts to discover if love is all that matters in a relationship.

Review: Oh my. Just, oh wow. There are times when you are so surprised that you love a book that you can't really explain why you like it...anyone understand me here? Anyone at all?
Okay. Let me attempt to explain myself. So we have this cover. I judge books by their covers, I know I shouldn't but when a book IS RIGHT THERE STARING AT ME, I'm more inclined to look at it if it has a pretty cover. It's like judging people on their appearance. We don't want to do it but we still do.
The cover, for me, is not a great selling point. It tells me this is a cheesy, 'omgdoeshelovemeomgwhatshouldido' kind of book. Which in some ways it is, but it's definitely, DEFINITELY much more than that. I also feel a bit weirded out by the whole close-up of a couple kissing, and of the fact there's a snap of his hand of her behind, I don't know I feel like I'm intruding on a personal moment. It works now I've read the book, everything is relevant but yeah. I still don't like it.

So I entered this book judging from the cover, as I do a lot. But then, I was suddenly sucked in to this - although perhaps a little unrealistic but exciting and beautiful world. There are moments where the fluffy romance seeps through but mostly, I found this a book that portrays the ups and downs of love, it showed a portrayal that felt real to me and, although not everyone is the Prime Minister's son, through Dante we see that conflict between your love and duty to your family and country mixed with your love for someone you deeply cared about. This book is mostly about the romance between Dante and Reece and that natural progression from strangers to friends to good friends to something more, but it also shows the need for friendship and the misunderstandings that come along with being that close to someone. There's also, like I said, the relationships with family as well as the relationships between those you dislike too. And I liked that mix there which made it not feel like a fluffy, cheesy, cliche romance.

Some reviews have criticised the writing, saying it makes Reece sound really selfish and stuck-up but I would have to disagree entirely. There are these lovely, vivid descriptions of a setting or scenery thrown in with the witty, sharp dialogue from the likeable Reece. She was a lovely protagonist and I loved her sense of humour and comments on things that made this read much more enjoyable. Like I've said, the romance is at the heart of the story but it's not all the story covers, otherwise I think I would not be writing such a positive review. There a a few sub-plots as well that become more prominent as the novel progresses. If I was in a perfect world, I would have liked the darker sub-plots to have had more page time but I still liked the way it was written entirely! There's all this tension throughout 60% of the novel where you can see the potential for Reece and Dante but there's something not quite letting it happen. Simply, for half of the book I was shouting KISS ALREADY at them.

DANTE'S GIRL holds a lovely cast of original and both annoying and hilarious characters. I loved the characters perhaps the most because they all felt familiar somehow to me, like I could relate my own (albeit small) cast of friends to them. There's the lovely, down-to-earth Reece. And Dante. OH DANTE. Well, he's quite a catch in all honesty, he's lovely in appearance. He's lovely as a person. He's lovely to everyone. HE'S JUST SO LOVELY. AND HANDSOME. And exotic too..hmmm. He reminded me a lot of Etienne St Clair in Anna and the French Kiss. There's also Mia, a typical rebelling teenager, who I loved and I liked the friendship that forms between her and Reece, it's really nice to read. And Gavin, who just added so much humour to the novel. Urgh, not Nate. Too creepy.

This book is one of the best sweet romances I have read in a while that would be perfect as a beach read or on a lazy afternoon. It really shows the romance of travelling, something I think that is quite hard to put across especially in a book when EVERYONE has had bad experiences on aeroplanes (I hate plane toilets so much that I have to stick my fingers in my ears when I flush or run out quickly). This probably isn't the perfect book for every reader but for me, this was the kind of book I needed that really sucked me into the story and threw me out at the end with a smiling, lovesick puppy expression. I cannot wait for the next installment of this book, Mia's Heart, to find out what will happen next in Caberra.
In a sentence, I loved this book utterly.

I give it a 5 out of 5

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for letting me review this book in exchange for a review

Author's Website:
Pages: 356
Publisher: Lakehouse Press
Challenges: None

Perfect for readers who loved:
Anna and the French Kiss - Stephanie Perkins
The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight - Jennifer E Smith
13 Little Blue Envelopes - Maureen Johnson
Saving June - Hannah Harrington

Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Secret of Ella and Micha - Jessica Sorensen

When I was contacted by the publisher to review this, I jumped at the chance to have the opportunity to review a book in one of the new most popular genres, New Adult. Although I'm still getting to grips about what that actually means, I've gathered that it's literature that's in between Young Adult and Adult fiction where the protagonists are normally between 18-24, normally set at university. The themes are normally quite serious - sexuality, bullying, alcohol, drugs, identity, serious relationships, marriage, college.
The fact that I am 18 myself, I was quite looking forward to seeing how I would take to this genre (I also had an idea it would be a bit like a toned down Fifty Shades of Grey which I would not enjoy...). So I had literally no idea what to expect from THE SECRET OF ELLA AND MICHA.

Synopsis: Ella and Micha have been best friends throughout their childhood. Until one night where a tragic event splits them apart. Ella was a feisty rule-breaker who told people truly what she thought. However, after that night, she goes to college without telling anyone. There, she changes herself to become someone who hides their problems and follows the rules. Fast forward eight months, Ella is forced to go home for the summer break. However, Ella is afraid that everything she has worked hard to cover up will resurface and shatter especially the the presence of Micha, her next door neighbour. Micha is used to getting the girls he wants - confident, charismatic, charming. He can see through Ella like no-one else can and wants, whatever the consequences, to get the girl he fell for back.

Review: What I liked about this book was that, although at the centre there is this love story, that isn't all the book is about. The book also looks at identity, what happens when you hide your past or cannot face it, following your dreams, the effects of leaving behind someone or something. There's lots of different themes packed in, mostly shown through Ella as she tries to find herself.

The novel starts with the night that changed the relationship between Ella and Micha. They had grown up next door neighbours and best friends since they were seven but when they turned sixteen, Micha realised he had more than friendly love for Ella. Both have been through a LOT with themselves and in their families so when the next day, Ella disappears, it's a little shocking and surprising for Micha that she just left without telling anyone. The novel then switches to eight months later where Ella is getting ready to head home for the summer with her room mate, Lila. Ella's had changed into this prim, proper, polite girl who doesn't want to go a foot wrong. She's so different from the girl she grew up as. On the same say, Micha finally finds out where she's been all this time, phoning her which completely freaks Ella out as she knows Micha will see straight through this facade she's adopted for herself. So things aren't fantastic when she arrives home. Micha wants to see her. She doesn't want to see him. And Lila has no idea what is going on.

I have to say I really liked Ella as a protagonist. It was realistic that she hid herself away not wanting everyone to be concerned by her problems and I can understand her reasoning for doing so. She has been through so much both outside the book and within the book, it made me want so much for her to have the ending she deserved and be happy be it with Micha or without. I guess I just really liked her level headiness, she was a strong, independent and practical character.
I also loved Lila, mostly for some of the comical moments she provided. She is a great friend to Ella and I think I would have been a little hurt to find out that the Ella she'd got to know well wasn't her true self. But Lila was a lovely additional character and I loved having the side thing with Ethan. Ah, love them two!
Within the different characters, I think the problem I had the most was with Micha. Sorry, but for me he seemed like an utter creep. He has his way with the ladies and uses that to tease and entice Ella even if he thinks she doesn't reciprocate but OH MY GOSH HIS 'PRETTY GIRL' NICKNAME IS SO CREEPY. I just...I liked him as a character and how he cares for Ella...there was just something about him that I found a little distracting from appreciating him. Just his way seemed a little forced I guess. But seriously, if it was me he was calling 'pretty girl', I would have slapped him in the face by now.

Overall, I think this novel is a enjoyable, a lovely easy read when you're on the train or on the beach in the summer.This is a book, in the form of a sweet romance, full to the brim of everything you could possibly look for in a novel allowing you to witness the growth of the two protagonists, full of chemistry and lovely moments between the pair. I really liked the journey that Micha and Ella take from friends, to not seeing each other to better than friends. The writing flowed well and I loved the dual narratives between the pair that made this novel a great read. For me, it was perfect, but I loved my insight into the interesting world of Ella and Micha's as well as my first taste of New Adult fiction.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Thank you to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

Author's Website:
Pages: 316
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group
Challenges: None

Monday, 8 April 2013

Requiem - Lauren Oliver (#3)

**As this is the third book in the series, this review may have some SPOILERS for those that have not read Delirium (my review) or Pandemonium (my review)- the first two books in the series. I would recommend reading them before reading this book. Actually if you read this review there would be SOME MAJOR SPOILERS for those books**

After going to the UK release event in London for REQUIEM (see about that here), I realised how much I wanted to find out Lena, Alex and Julian's ending after the HORRIBLE ending in Pandemonium. I was a little apprehensive to say the least in starting this as I knew it was the final book but also I was so like 'WHAT THE HELL IS GOING TO HAPPEN IN THIS BOOK?!' too.
So I was nervous and excited and scared and happy and nervous when I opened this book on the train ride home from the event. And in all honesty, I did not expect any of the events that happen at all.

Synopsis: After rescuing Julian from being killed and the surprising arrival of Alex - someone Lena thought was dead, Lena and her friends have escaped back into the Wilds. But the Wilds are not as safe as they used to be as the government have admitted to the presence of Invalids, something they denied for so long. The Wilds are full to the brim of regulators and patrols around every corner, ordered to kill as many rebels as possible. Lena's ground are part of a large resistance moving closer and closer to a wider rebellion. Meanwhile, Lena's best friend from her old life, Hana is being forced into marriage with Portland's new mayor, Fred. She's safe and without love after receiving the cure but there are darker, dangerous things happened even within a life that is considered safe.

Review: Well. I just...there are too many thoughts and feelings that I have for this book that there is no way I can decide on one significant definite thought.
I mean I really liked it and I think it was a good end to this series, I liked how it ended full circle especially. But there is something about it I wasn't expecting, that I feel disappointed by, and I can't quite put my finger on what that is.

The novel starts a few days after Pandemonium finishes with this lovely reunion that had me smiling to myself on the train. But there's this conflict, this underlying feeling I had that something would go terribly wrong quite soon. There's also the whole Julian versus Alex thing because they're both THERE, RIGHT THERE with Lena. I mean Alex, I liked him in Delirium but there were times when I just wanted to punch him in the face after his reaction in Pandemonium. I mean seriously, you're gone for months and you're annoyed Lena left you because she thought you were dead? Please.
Alex is a certainly a changed character, he's harsh, quiet with this fierce intensity that I found a little disturbing at times. It's clear something major has happened while he's been away from Lena (especially as last time we saw him he was thought to be dead). Then there's Julian, who I have to admit is my favourite of the guys. Lovely, lovely Julian, ever the gentleman. However, there's something changed about him also since we last saw the naive, quietly rebelling young man in Pandemonium - he's turned into someone whose grown up, taken chances, trying to fit in with those around him while being kind of ignored by the girl he fled to the Wilds for. In a sentence, at the beginning, things aren't perfect.

Unlike the other books in the series, REQUIEM is split between two narrators: Lena in the Wilds and Hana, who is living still in Portland preparing to get married to the newly appointed mayor, Fred Hargrove. I think I liked Pandemonium more than Delirium because of the way it explores the more political, underground mysteries and operations that lead to some major discoveries. Similarly, we get that from Hana's narrative. She's in this supposedly safe atmosphere yet there is something deeply sinister happening in Portland and especially, something sinister about Fred (another character who I wanted to punch). I guess what I'm saying is that I preferred the domestic setting in Portland more than the one in the Wilds. Hana was a character that I loved and wanted more page-time with in Delirium so I like that Oliver chose her as a narrator for REQUIEM. I felt sympathy for her situation and for her, even if she does behave a little spoilt at times. It kind of puts it all into perspective in a way that while Lena is fighting to be free to love, Hana is forced into a marriage arranged by the government, wanting to be free of Fred.

Unlike Pandemonium, REQUIEM has quite a slow pace with the main actions only happening the last 100 pages or so. There isn't really a definite plot until that moment. I think it's that which makes my reaction to this book not as like 'WOW'. It's really Hana's narrative that made me want to read on and on, with a faster pace particularly compared to Lena's. In a perfect world, I think the book would have been better with a faster pace but I always had this feeling throughout Lena's narrative that Oliver was building up to this huge climatic event throwing some hints, clues and a bunch of surprises throughout. I've become used to Oliver's eloquent, lyrical language that is webbed into the main narrative and it is lovely and everything...but I have trouble reading that kind of lingo. I'm like 'Ah, that's so vivid' and everything but I don't really know, I just don't remember it (?) or totally overlook it and within the next page I'm like 'Whoa, what just happened?'. It's confusing and this may just be good old me, but yeah. I had trouble reading and concentrating on the text. GAH.

I can't sign off without mentioning the ending. Yes in some ways it is disappointing, not what many expect but SERIOUSLY, I LOVED THE ENDING. When I went to the Lauren Oliver event, she talked about how she started writing fan fiction when she was younger because she never wanted the stories to end, she wanted the characters to be alive even after finishing the book. And knowing that, it's why I like the ending. Yes, it is ambiguous and open-ended. Yes, you have no idea what the final conclusion to Lena's story is. But you have some idea what it is in those last fleeting few pages. I'm sure my take on the ending is unique to me and that is the beauty of REQUIEM's ending - everyone has their own interpretation, everyone can imagine what happens after the book finishes, everyone still remembers Lena, Alex, Julian and the others. That is a real (and quite daring) skill and something that worked perfectly in my opinion.

This was a book I was thoroughly looking forward to and mostly it did not disappoint especially the ending. I quite liked the suddenness of it all, the secrets that are slowly but surely drawn out from the characters and the cinematic feel of the last few chapters. There are some emotional, heart-wrenching scenes as Hana and Lena's narratives converge into one another and some beautifully crafted moments that lead to a powerful and uplifting ending. Lauren Oliver, I have to raise a glass to you. I may have no idea of what I truly thought about this book in particular, but overall, this series has been superb. Well done.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 391
Publisher: Hodder
Challenges: None

Related Posts:
Review: Delirium (#1)
Review: Pandemonium (#2)
Review: Before I Fall
Lauren Oliver Event

Friday, 5 April 2013

Books Everyone Loved (Excluding Me)

I saw this post on Reading Teen and thought it was brilliant idea, especially making me feel like 'Oh so I wasn't the ONLY one to not like Book A'. Everyone is intitled to their own opinion especially something so varied like books or movies or music. The times people have judged because of your opinion on a certain band or song is silly and I find it sometimes a bit flustering if someone asks what bands I like or what books or films in case they judge my choices (FYI: a guilty pleasure of mine is Take That...I quite enjoy their music...). 
Let me know if you agree (or disagree!) with any of my choices. Really, I want to hear...

You Against Me
Jenny Downham

After all the raving reviews I've seen, I'm starting to wonder if I was reading a completely different book. I had read Before I Die a few years before this one, not particularly understanding it as I was only about 13. So when I started this at age 16, I thought 'Yep, I'll understand this'. And I did. But I thought the book was quite tedious and boring. In my review, I was desperately trying to pull out some positives and probably sounding more positive about the book than I actually felt as a result. I still don't quite understand why people like this book. 

Rachel Ward

I rarely stop reading a book however much I dislike it or find it boring. But sometimes it's just too much. And this is one of them. OH MY FRICKING GOSH JEM WAS THE MOST ANNOYING CHARACTER EVER. And seriously, the male protagonist that we're all supposed to fall for is defined by smelling really, really bad?! This book seemed a little confused to me, like it couldn't quite decide on a message or genre and in the end I just gave up. One of the worst books I've read to be honest.

New Girl
Paige Harbison

As much as possible I try to be positive about the books I read, even if I didn't particularly like them or are on the fence in my opinion. Yet I think my review for New Girl was the harshest I've ever written but entirely my own opinion. I was actually horrified by this book, why did people like it when it was so awful? Why take an absolute classic book (this is based VERY loosely on Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier), take the plot and characters and then just wreck it to shreds. I really did not like this book. (Review)

Ally Condie

Okay, so I know a few people would agree with me but it has to be said. Why did the whole blogosphere bow and absorb Matched as one of the best YA dystopians, comparing to the likes of Divergent or The Hunger Games? Because it really wasn't that special. I thought it was mediocre and I must have enjoyed it even only a little bit as I read the subsequent sequels (which got better as the series continued). I just hated Cassia. And Ky (everyone apart from Xander really). I thought the concept, although original, was a little bit confusing and even now after finishing the series, I still don't quite understand it. It was an okay book, just really, really definitely not one of the best YA dystopians. (Review)

Monday, 1 April 2013

Speechless - Hannah Harrington

This was a book I requested as a galley months ago as soon as I saw it. I've read Hannah Harrington's debut, Saving June (review), which was incredible so knew I would enjoy this one too. For some reason though, it's taken me so long to finally choose to read this one despite the many raving reviews I've seen in that time (I don't understand either). So needless to say I was going into this novel with high expectations for the great dynamic of characters, the vivid settings and the interesting plot that I found in Saving June.

Synopsis: Chelsea Knot has everything - best friend to the most popular girl in high school, pretty, sociable. But she can't keep a secret. Which hasn't been a problem having so much power and influence at school, until she shares a secret that nearly gets someone killed and turns her into a social outcast.
Chelsea takes a vow of silence, forbidding herself to speak or even sing, in order to learn the true power of words and stop harming everyone else. Keeping quiet is hard especially when your own secrets are spilled out to everyone and there is no way to fight back. But soon Chelsea sees the strength in silence and the whole host of friends and understandings that come along with it.

Review: Boy. Hannah Harrington can WRITE.
I started this book, like many people I'm assuming, absolutely hating Chelsea. Thankfully, the type of Chelsea is at the beginning of the novel is someone I was able to avoid in my adolescence  However, the popular person with ridiculous amounts of influence and power were present at my secondary school and soon became the fake people I avoided entirely.
I think we can all imagine the type of mean person Chelsea is at the beginning. Although I couldn't help but feel a little sorry for her despite her meanness and spite. It's very clear that she's been led to this bad place where she feels its acceptable to spill everyone's secrets, not considering the consequences. She knows deeply, and realises it throughout the novel that what she is doing is totally wrong but it is something that has been drummed into her by those above her so she can't stop. Which makes it a bit ironic that those who turn against her first are those that make her spread rumours and reveal other's secrets.

I have to say the story became much more engaging and interesting once Chelsea chose to take the vow of silence and I liked seeing the journey she embarks upon in doing so from turning from this hateful, mean girl to someone with more dignity and empathy. I thought it would become rather tedious or boring having a protagonist that can't speak, but honestly, I think I got a great insight into her thoughts and emotions than many other acclaimed novel's protagonists which helps when you hate the girl at the beginning.
I've no way a fast reader and would much rather take my time over books, appreciate them, than read like 10 books in a week and not completely engage entirely with them all. However, Harrington has this ability to MAKE me read faster. Saving June I finished in a couple of days, this one was within 2 days. I'm not sure why but it's something I've come to realise.

The characters in SPEECHLESS, and indeed in Saving June, are the icing on the cake in Harrington's books. They have this Sarah Dessen-esque feel about them that makes them diverse yet so great, I guess. There is Kristen, the ultimate Regina George mean girl who I detested throughout, thought her taunting was totally unnecessary, but I'm glad about the ending for her with Chelsea. I also loved that Harrington chose Chelsea to make friends with a completely opposite group to what she is used to, that also won't necessarily accept her straight away. There's the ever so lovely Asha who I literally want as my own best friend now. And of course, SAM. Ah, Sam. Well, I did not see HIM coming as a love interest but boy, is he a sweet guy! So sweet, even when he seems to dislike Chelsea. I just loved the ability to create such amazing characters especially in the dimensions of friend and then 'more of a friend' that made it so real to read.

Harrington successfully covers a range of issues - friendship, the impact of rumours, fights, first impressions, bullying - that I think all resonated with me. However, coming away from this novel, the novel essentially made me think about the repercussions and impact of things I have said and done towards people. While I've never bullied someone and would never even think of doing so, sometimes something that you may not think would hurt someone in any way, does just that. I know I've had that happen to me before. People can be weird. One minute friendly and lovely, the next horrible and rude which Kristen shows off nicely in this novel. The main thing if anything happens, like what Noah or Chelsea go through in this as victims, to appreciate those that are around you still, like friends or family. I thought Chelsea's reaction with the vow of silence was rather...unrealistic but I think her reaction to not react outwardly is definitely the right decision in any cases be it fiction or real life.
If this is better than Saving June, I'm not sure. But Hannah Harrington can sure write some incredibly, thought-provoking contemporary.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Thank you to Netgalley and HarlequinTeen for letting me read and review this book!

Author's Website:
Pages: 288
Publisher: HarlequinTeen
Challenges: None

Related Posts:
Review: Saving June