Sunday, 30 June 2013

On My Bookshelf (40)

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

- Prodigy by Marie Lu  - When I finished Legend (the first book in this series), I was hooked and due to the cliffhanger ending, I needed to know what happened next soon. And gladly, Prodigy has only recently come out in the UK and was BRAND NEW to the library so I was able to grab a copy straight away. So looking forward to this one!

- The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey - Unless you've been living under a rock or away from the Internet, everyone has been talking about this book. I was a bit dubious when I saw it at work. I mean, aliens? I like some science-fiction but I normally draw the line at alien invasions because they're always a bit...out there (and no-one can beat War of the Worlds). So when I heard the amazing, stunning reviews for this, I still was a bit unsure whether it would be a personal thing for people on how much they liked it. I've heard some negative reviews now, so I'm going into this book open-minded. Let me know what you think of this book if you've read it!

Have you read either of these books? What did you think of them - good or bad? 
Leave your links so I can check out your own hauls!

Reviews by these authors:

Friday, 28 June 2013

Confessions of an Almost Girlfriend - Louise Rozett (#2)

**There may be spoilers for the first book in the series, Confessions of an Angry Girl. Check out my review here for that**

I can't believe it was only the beginning of the year that I discovered this series, it seems far longer. I really liked Confessions of an Angry Girl - I loved Rose's narrative, the characters and the realism that is shown across the page that made this book stand out. It also made me realise how much I love this genre of contemporary fiction, especially in the high school setting.
So I was so happy to see this on Netgalley while I was in the middle of my exams as I was dying to find out what happened next for Rose and Jamie, as well as what's up next in Rose's life.

Synopsis: It is the start of Rose's sophomore year and after the drama and bullying of the year before, she wants to keep her head down and out of trouble.
But even before school starts again, Rose gets involved in a serious argument between two boys that continues throughout the school year. There's also the sudden popularity of Tracey - Rose's best friend - that leaves Rose behind the times. But most of all, there's Jamie Forta - the lovely guy who asked her to prom and broke up with his girlfriend, Regina for her. But Rose is always asking the question, is she his girlfriend? Or is she more his 'almost-girlfriend'?

Review: Okay, if you want like a basic review of this book, just go to the last paragraph because simply, I loved this book. So much. Like it made my day, my week, my month, my freaking year because I needed a book like this to get me back on the reviewing and reading drive, to make me feel better about myself at a low point and to just appreciate my love of reading. BECAUSE THIS BOOK WAS SO GOOD.
*cue fan-girling, ranting, the word 'love' being repeated MANY times*

I loved this book, I really did. I mean, I thought the first book was pretty good and a great debut but whoa...this builds much more on Confessions of an Angry Girl and more introducing some new characters as well as newer, serious themes plus showing the effects on Rose from the first book.

I think it's the characters that make this story what it is. Sometimes contemporary books have characters that for me, just seem so unrealistic and unnecessary at times and it just makes me enjoy the book much less. Rose is far from that, and I think her honest narration, stark and the teenage angst that comes across the page makes the issues addressed in this series much more realistic and make an impact. I understood Rose's problems in finding herself, finding who she is in her teenage years, because I've gone through that. There was one poignant quote that I remember about your reflection in the mirror being completely different to what you think you look like in your head which had me shouting 'YES. YOU UNDERSTAND ME' in my head. Because I've thought, and still do think that  - ah I'm just such a fan of Rose really.
The problem with Rose in the first book is that she seemed really young and when it daunted on me that in the first book she's only 14/15 - I don't know, it just seemed young. I think that is lost a little bit gladly in this book as Rose turns 16, which is good to see and made me enjoy this book far more.

The characters are all incredibly diverse and original to one another and their relationships keep developing with Rose and with one another. A few of my favourites were Tracey and Angelo (WHO can't love him?!) who bring some needed humour and sarcasm to a book that could overwhelm at times. They've very quick-witted and also the loveliest characters to Rose.

As I said, the narration is so real and it is the writing that made me zoom through Confessions of an Angry Girl and this book because it engages you so much from the first page. I literally was having to slow my reading down because I didn't want the book to finish, knowing the next book I read will never match. In short, the narration has this real element to it that addresses these deeper issues many times throughout, such as bullying, homophobia, domestic violence - but it's always mixed with humour at just the right moments (mostly a sarcastic remark from Rose or Angelo just being Angelo).

And then there's Jamie. The love interest, you could say. I don't know what I think of him really, I mean there is something irresistible about him and I can totally see why Rose likes him. But, there are times when I'm wondering why Rose puts up with the 'almost-girlfriend' thing, because it seems sometimes he could be leading her on. I just hope he sorts it out, and at the end, when he just like judges her?! AH. So I like Jamie. But he can be such an idiot at times.

So yeah. I really, really liked this book mostly because the focus was off the whole thing Rose has with Regina and onto other stronger issues to be explored. There's so much going on underneath Rose's narrative that I can just see all these things coming out in later books. Rose is still the amazing, feisty narrator most readers loved as well as the best minor characters I've come across making this one of the best books I've read this year, and this series is definitely becoming one of my favourites. It's like Rose understands me and the feeling of knowing that I'm not alone in trying to find who I am, in facing all these issues at school or home or with myself - it's indescribable how good that is.
If you haven't read Confessions of an Angry Girl, READ IT. And then this one. I just sincerely hope that the third book comes out soon and that this series gets the success it completely deserves.

Thank you so much to Netgalley and Harlequin Teen for letting me review this book. 

I give it a 5 out of 5

Author's Website:
Pages: 288
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Challenges: None

Related Reviews:
Confessions of an Angry Girl - Louise Rozett (#1)
Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters - Meredith Zeitlin

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Film Review: The Great Gatsby

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Romeo and Juliet), Carey Mulligan (An Education, Doctor Who), Tobey MacGuire (Spiderman), Joel Edgerton (Warrior), Isla Fisher (Confessions of a Shopaholic), Elizabeth Debicki (A Few Best Men)
Directed by Baz Luhrmann (Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rogue)
Filmed in various locations in Australia
Based on the novel of the same name by F.Scott Fitzgerald

Synopsis: Set in Long Island, Nick Carraway recounts the events of the previous summer where he encountered the mysterious Jay Gatsby and became a part of his lavish, rich world. Nick soon discovered the secrets, obsession and lies beneath the cool, sophisticated life of Gatsby where tragedy is waiting.

Okay, so I may be a little bias in my love for this movie mostly because I had to read the book last year for my English Literature A-level and be able to analyse any part of it. Then, I did it for my coursework this year and re-read it in March.
So I know this book WELL. But normally studying a book to death means I dislike said book but The Great Gatsby was the first book where that didn't happen. I loved the symbols, the hatred you feel for the characters, the hope that Gatsby makes Nick and the reader feel, the dazzling imagery of Gatsby's parties of excess - everything. 
So I had HIGH hopes for the movie considering the 1974 adaptation is far from fantastic. 

In a word, my reaction to this film when I came out of the cinema was a simple 'Wow'. There were many things I was dubious about: the modern music, Tobey Macguire as Nick Carraway, the narrative staying retrospective. But all those worries were forgotten as soon as the opening credits started, Tobey Macguire appeared and started recounting the events of the previous summer and then when Leonardo appeared - well, I was sold. 

The thing that sticks out the most to me about this film is the characters that I think were cast amazingly well particularly Nick and Gatsby. These are far from easy roles and even in the book, it is hard to understand the motivations, the feelings and the truth to the main characters because they all feel they have to be something else to fit in with society.
 Leonardo Di Caprio isn't playing Gatsby, he BECOMES Gatsby - he shows his cool sophistication that masks his childhood, there is the glimmers of something darker in him particularly latterly in the film. He IS how I imagine Gatsby. 
I never liked Tobey Macguire as Spiderman- he was too awkward for a superhero but in this film that awkwardness works superbly for Nick who let's face it, is an awkward character stuck in the middle of a world he doesn't particularly understand unless it's to do with drinking. I absolutely loved him as Nick and although he wasn't as annoying and ambiguous as Nick is in the book, he really brought that something to Nick's character that I can't quite work out.

When I read the first reviews for the film, they all stated that they found that Carey Mulligan, playing the lead female role of Daisy, as lacking depth and in some cases annoying. This, rather than actually understand the story, showed that the writer had clearly not read the book. In my case, I liked Carey Mulligan as Daisy, a role so different to others I've seen her play. She showed me how I saw Daisy in the novel - someone shallow that is so within her own world, she doesn't even realise the damage she causes around her.

The film epitomises the idea of excess. Everything is big, everything is bold and loud and bright. In the first reviews also, I saw one comment which stated that 'It was so unrealistic. Everything was too much' which again had me wondering if the writer also hadn't read the book. I agree, Gatsby's parties, the speed of some of the shots, the colours, the filming - it is excessive. But so is the novel. I think Baz Luhrmann has done a superb job is showing the culture of the 1920's, the insane practices, the subtle warnings of what is to come in 1929 as well as the messages and illustrations F Scott Fitzgerald shows in the novel itself. As I came out of the cinema, my best friend turned to me and said 'It was like I was watching Moulin Rouge all over again'. While I haven't watched Moulin Rogue, also directed by Baz Luhrmann, I have seen Romeo and Juliet starring also Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Luhrmann. And in all honesty, I can totally see what she means. The colours, the music, the filming - it is very typical of Luhrmann's way of making films and as these three films all have the same kind of tragic love story to the plot, it does make them seem incredibly similar.

Despite this, The Great Gatsby is one of the best films I've seen this year, as well as Les Miserables. Although I knew what happened in the story, I still was surprised by the revelations throughout, still saddened by Gatsby's story and I literally grabbed my friend's hand in the final climatic moments of the film - it still had the power to move someone who knows the story inside out. I can see the understanding behind some of the critique with this film, but in my view, if you read the book then watch the film (like in most adaptations), it makes it more enjoyable watching as well as showing and appreciating the power and imagery of Fitzgerald's beautiful book that is transformed well onto the screen. This is a brilliant adaptation of one of the books in my life that holds the most memories and resonance for me. 

Friday, 14 June 2013

Mini Reviews: Legend, All These Things I've Done, Scarlet

So while I was away, I went on a bit of a dystopian rampage. Literally. This has to be one of my favourite genres and while some dislike the amount of books on offer in this genre out there, I like the variety you can choose from, getting more and more interesting each time I read them.
While I can't do a full out review for all of these (especially as one of them I read months ago), I am going to do some mini-reviews. Bottom line is though: all of these are great books!

LEGEND - Marie Lu (#1)

Synopsis: The Western states of America are now home to the Republic. Born into an elite American family, June is Republic's prodigy training to one of the Republic's best military officers. Born in the slums, Day is the Republic's most wanted criminal although his motives for his crimes aren't as bad as they seem to the public. There is no reason for these two teenagers to cross path until June's brother, Metias, is murdered and the Republic name Day as the prime suspect. June vows to avenge Metias' death and catch Day once and for all while Day tries to help his family survival the vicious plague. As they both chase each other, they uncover the secrets the country has been hidden and the lengths they will go to make sure the public never find out.

Review: There was always something about this novel that made me hesitate when I saw it in the library or bookshop. I'm not entirely sure what it was but it may have something to do with the proud declaration on the front cover that should I like The Hunger Games, it's a given that I'll love LEGEND (like a lot of dystopians now). I finally picked it up during my blogging break, I guess because I wasn't reading to review intentionally.
However, when I started reading, I suddenly became absorbed in this startlingly different world where the military was key to the government but there was all this suspicion and secrets lying underneath the cold exteriors of the officers. June was a great protagonist, strong yet had that hint of sensitivity that comes through ever so often. I also liked Day throughout and as there wasn't much of a relationship between these two characters in this book, I hope this will develop in the next book in the series, Prodigy. The ending, oh my THE ENDING, was's just happens to fast, so quick yet you're still involved and absorbed in the action and the emotions of the characters. It was incredibly well-written and clever. This book is short, unsatisfactorily short even, yet so much happens in the short amount of pages which left me finishing the book wanting the sequel immediately. This is a different kind of dystopian, one I haven't seen around which I think makes it all the more enjoyable and interesting.
I give it a 5 out of 5

ALL THESE THINGS I'VE DONE - Gabrielle Zevin (#1)

Synopsis: 2083, New York. In a society where coffee and chocolate is banned, water is rationed and New York is the centre of crime and corruption, as the daughter of the city's most notorious crime boss, now dead, and a part of the city's famous chocolate maker, Anya's life is rather normal. She goes to school, hangs out with her best friend, Scarlet, looks after her brother and sister as well as her dying grandmother. Meanwhile, she is also trying not to fall for the charming son of the DA's assistant. However, soon her ex-boyfriend is poisoned by chocolate that Anya's family manufactures and she finds herself as the prime suspect. Anya is thrust into the spotlight at school, publicly and most importantly within her mafia family after years of staying hidden away.

Review: Gabrielle Zevin is an author I would normally associate with contemporary writing with a twist after reading Elsewhere and Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac, which I enjoyed both. This book was good, and I liked it a lot especially the way it felt like the Prohibition era, with guns, gangsters, family loyalties  - but with chocolate and modern technology. I think the problem is the blurb and I guess the whole damn narrative of the book. The blurb made me think this would be a book about the conflict between her and her family and the impact of that on her life and in a way it is with her romance with Win central to it all. And it is and it isn't. There is a lack of action until the very end and with these expectations I had from the blurb, I ended the book feeling a little bit cheated. I did like the book, and I did find it interesting and enjoyable mostly because of the superb characters but really, I think that's as far as it goes (doing this several months after reading however). I liked most of the book's narrative up until the last quarter where I started to *gasp* dislike Anya. There was just nothing there, no emotion, no sympathy, just nothing and although that may be done on purpose, it made it incredibly boring and slow to read with this nothingness. So it was a good attempt at this dystopian/crime/contemporary/something else genre, but I do think there were flaws. I'll probably read the next book, Because It Is My Blood, but only because I want to know what's next for Win and Anya.
I give it a 3.5 out of 5

SCARLET - Marissa Meyer (#2)

*May contain spoilers for those who have not read the first book, Cinder. Here's my review for that*

Synopsis: Cinder's story continues as she tries to break out of prison although it will make her the most wanted fugitive on Earth. Meanwhile, in Europe, Scarlet's grandmother has gone missing and the police have ruled her as dead. Scarlet meets Wolf, a streetfighter hiding his own secrets and intentions, who is Scarlet's only link and evidence that will lead to her grandmother. They start to unravel one mystery together, including the secrets Scarlet's grandmother kept from her all the years she grew up. They also encounter another mystery as the stories of Cinder and Scarlet collide as they try to defeat the vicious Queen Levana and stop her plan to make Prince Kai her husband, whatever the cost. 

Review: I knew this would be good. I just knew it. This is the sequel to Meyer's debut last year, Cinder, a futuristic retelling of Cinderella. SCARLET is a retelling of Red Riding Hood, with some different interpretations of the story, one I particularly like was how they incorporated the idea of the wolf being Red Riding Hood's grandmother - very clever. I loved this second installment, especially the spilt narratives between Scarlet, Cinder and Prince Kai (yep, he's still there!) which made the story more well-rounded and gave the idea that the problems throughout the book with Queen Levana are impacting the whole world, not just in the Eastern Commonwealth.
It was well-written considering the amount of action that could overwhelm a reader. I especially loved finding out more about Cinder's past continuing from Cinder, and there are LOTS of surprise discoveries.
I would definitely recommend this to anyone that has read and loved Cinder as I did. I don't think it's quite as good compared to Cinder but there are so many things in this book that take the narrative of Cinder in a completely different direction. I am eagerly awaiting the new book, Cress, a retelling of Rapunzel coming out next year (AH NEXT YEAR?!)
I give it a 5 out of 5

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you agree with what I thought - let me know below!

Sunday, 9 June 2013

On My Bookshelf (39)

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

I haven't done one of these since March! I thought I would ease myself back into blogging with a meme because I love showing off the books I've acquired, seeing what others have got, sharing our recommendations - I really missed it actually in my break.
Essentially, these books were brought this week. The day after my last exam, which was a total disaster (tears happened is all I shall say on the matter), I decided that my first day of freedom would be spent doing some retail shopping most importantly in Waterstones with my staff card. So that is what I did, running around the shop looking for the books I have been waiting for read for a long time and shoving them into my basket before a second thought.

- Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell - First off, THAT name has got to be the best name ever to have. It's so pretty and original! I bought this book because of SO many of the glowing reviews I've seen for it topped with the short review I read by Iffath from painting with words on Goodreads summed up the need to buy this book. 

- Theodore Boone: The Activist by John Grisham - Right, okay, this is one of those books I need to justify sometimes. Basically, this series are discovered by my best friend, Georgia. She was like 'Ah they're so great and Theo is such a good protagonist' and considering this is about Theo wanting to be a lawyer and she herself is aspiring to be a lawyer, I didn't think I would like this. Until, I looked at my blog archive and I realised I'D READ THE BOOK AND LOVED IT. And ever since then, I think we have become the only two fans of this series. I don't know anyone else that likes them...
So this is the new book in the series. And my excitement to read it is indescribable. 

- The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen - Sarah Dessen is one of those authors where whatever she writes, however bad the reviews may be for it, I WILL buy it and KNOW I will enjoy it. This is her new book and I had to stop myself from both squealing and rushing up to grab a copy, mostly because there was a guy nearby who I vaguely knew. I did the whole 'Look at phone, look at book, oh yeah this is for my...sister?' - then runs away in happiness

- Dusk by Eve Edwards - I've read her series set in Tudor times which I can thoroughly recommend! It wasn't until a few weeks ago when I found out that she was releasing another book through Clover at Fluttering Butterflies and then Lucy at Queen of Contemporary reminded me the other day. So when I saw this, the book entered my growing basket without thinking - I know I will enjoy this new series.


Have any of you read them and if so what did you think? Leave your links to your own memes for me to check out this week! 

Reviews by these authors:

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

I'm Back! (Kind Of)

This is a kind of post to say that, guys, I haven't forgotten my little corner of the internet or my lovely followers or books in general (how could THAT happen?) because I realise that it's getting on for two months since I hung up my book reviewing shoes in exchange for my revising shoes for my A-level exams (this is all metaphorical by the way, not literal).

I am starting to actually turn my laptop back on again now and actually go on Blogger's website and have a look at some posts from my favourite blogs but I'm still not completely back, back.
I've done two of my exams so far, History and Media, which were...hmm, okay. History wasn't as great as I would have liked it to go although I had the BEST questions. Media was a bit more reassuring, although I feel like I just threw some words on the paper and hoped that they would get me marks.
I have one exam left, English Literature which I think is the hardest out of the three - that's on Thursday. And then I will be FREE.

You guys are brillant, you know? Like some of you have just stuck with my blog, some of you have mentioned that you missed me during my blogging break, you guys were all so lovely in the comments section of my last post where I started my break. So sweet that I actually cried at how lovely they were. Which is unheard of for me. So thank you. And thank you to those like Nessie and Marie-Louise Jensen and Amy and Michelle from Queen of the Universe as well as others who wished me luck and just made me feel more confident. Thank you!

But before I sign off and go back and catch up on Glee, I just want some recommends from you guys!
On my 'first day of freedom' on Friday, I am planning to go on the bus to the local shopping centre, go into the huge Waterstones with my discount card and my salary and buy all the books I want to read. I already have a little list with some John Grisham, Sarah Dessen, Rainbow Rowell but I want some recommends to check out while I'm there. Because I love books. But I dislike buying books when I don't know what they'll be like. It's a strange and rather annoying fear for a book lover like me, but I would love your recommends all the same to hunt down for while I'm there.

SO GIVE ME YOUR RECOMMENDS, either tweet me at @rebeccabooks or comment below. Can't wait to see what books you guys are loving!