Thursday, 28 February 2013

Insurgent - Veronica Roth (#2)

*There may be some spoilers in this review for those that have not read Divergent yet. I would highly recommend you start from the beginning of the series, so have a look at my review for the first book here!*


As soon as I finished DIVERGENT, I knew I had to get my hands on a copy of INSURGENT to find out what happened next after that semi-cliffhanger. Unlike those that read DIVERGENT when it first came out, I didn't have to wait a year to find out what happened next for Tris and Tobias. After a hunt at my library, a frantic text to my friend and then a two and a half hour bus journey to hers from college (long story), I finally had my hands on a copy of INSURGENT. There was no hint at all in DIVERGENT of what Roth would throw at me next so I opened the book that evening with an open yet curious mind. Boy, that was one heck of a book...

Synopsis: Tris's initiation day into Dauntless should have been full of celebrations to be one of the few to enter the faction. But after the attack simulation, war is on the edge of breaking out as faction rivalries and conflict looms to the surface. Tris and Tobias are safe with their remaining friends (and some enemies) at Amity, trying to figure out the next steps to stop Jeanine Matthews while grieving for the family and friends that they lost. Soon they are forced to leave the Amity headquarters. but with the amount of death and destruction Tris has witnessed in such a short space of time, she has to accept her Divergence either to look towards the future with hope or to plan revenge.

Review: The plot of INSURGENT is one that is hard to describe in a short synopsis without revealing too much or sounding too vague. The book starts moments after the ending in DIVERGENT with Tris waking up on a train with Tobias, Marcus and her brother, Caleb on their way to the Amity headquarters. I'm glad Roth decided to start the narrative straight from where she left off, you miss literally nothing. The plot is hard to describe also because so much changes throughout.
And wow, so many things happen! I was just so blown away by this novel that on reading the last page, I just sat there for a few moments in shock. I mean EVERYTHING CHANGES. Roth has this skill where she makes this world which you think you know well enough from DIVERGENT, she makes these lovely characters all with depth, back stories and likable when they need to be. Yet BAM all that is completely turned on its head and sends the narrative in a completely new direction. In books, you never know the complete ending until you get to that part but Roth makes you realise that you can't trust or understand a character or setting completely because of all the secrets, the deceptions lying underneath. In a sentence, I thought I knew most of the characters (especially one whose deception to Tris was a SAY WHAT? moment) but by the end of INSURGENT, I so did not. Frequently, I was left in shock muttering 'What on earth just happened?!'.

As many trilogies, the second book is normally the worse. It's one that has to happen before the final dramatic ending but after the initial introduction of the characters and world and the first dramatic surprises. It normally suffers from 'Second Book Syndrome' as I saw a blogger once dub it. The only series which hasn't done that for me was The Hunger Games, a book that DIVERGENT is compared a lot to; Catching Fire was by far my favourite out of the three books.
INSURGENT also doesn't suffer from this syndrome. Although, I think overall DIVERGENT was a bit better, INSURGENT is up there in one of the most stressful, high-tension, action-packed books I've read. I thought DIVERGENT was action-packed but that was NOTHING compared to this book!
You are kept on edge throughout the whole book, when you think there is a peaceful moment, that is snatched away by the next dilemma being thrown at you. I did sometimes find that feeling of being on edge constantly a little too much, there are such huge events that kept happening and trying to keep up with it all needs some concentration. I felt I needed to keep reading and reading until the early hours of the morning or the last moments before I had to get off the train because I needed to know the consequences of a certain action or the next threat that would be thrown at Tris; who would die, where would they go next, what would happen to Tris and Tobias - I needed to know.

Tris was a character I absolutely loved in DIVERGENT for her toughness and empathy, I felt very connected with her struggles with her Divergence and against those that hated her. The Tris in INSURGENT is very different. She is much more emotional, confused and incredibly angry as a consequence of both her own and others actions. I'm not entirely sure how I felt about the change, it's was a little surprising I guess and there were moments where I found this version of Tris a little annoying.
She's not the only one that has a change in them. Tobias, who I adored in DIVERGENT (like nearly everyone else), shows a more independent, strategic side to himself that is always trying to be ready for the next attack to protect those he loves. He is also full of anger and angst so combined with the action, the emotions add to the tension and the feeling of being on edge. While Tobias and Tris' relationship in DIVERGENT formed into something so wonderful and perfect, INSURGENT unsurprisingly changes this and shows some ups and downs of their connection because of the horror and war around them. Looking back now, it made it more realistic and at some points, I don't think the plot would have worked had there still been this perfect, beautiful romantic relationship at the heart.
As a reader, we learn more about other characters mentioned in DIVERGENT which made it heartbreaking when certain characters were killed off or named traitors. Although Tris and Tobias mean something special to a reader, the other characters all added to my love for this book.

Now. The ending. Just....I'm still processing what happened in the final scene and the revelation literally on the last page. In the last remaining chapters, I was seriously wondering what would be in the third book. Tris' aim throughout INSURGENT was in the process of being accomplished, this person was killed, that person wasn't killed, this happened, that had happened - there felt to be a lot of closure until the very last page. And oh my. That was a little bit of a shocker that left me just flabbergasted, rushing to re-read it, staring at my reflection in the mirror opposite my bed with a look like I'd been told I'd passed all my exams with A*'s. Pure shock - it's been a while since I've felt that emotion over a book. I, as many, have no idea what will be happening in the final book in this series. It's just...I have no idea. I want to know now...but I have no idea. Sometimes you have a small hint or thought of what will happen in the conclusion, but I do not know. At. All WHY ROTH DO YOU DO THIS TO ME?!

If you've made it through this review this far without skipping paragraphs, I'm pretty sure I've established this novel as pure literary art. Roth crafts a novel of suspense, action, betrayal and most of all love set in a world that cannot be compared to any other book, and full to the brim of some real shockers. At the heart of the action, war and corruption are a host of powerful relationships that keeps the narrative addictive. This series has taken up the majority of my reading in February because of its ability of forcing you to need to keep reading on and on about Tris. I haven't read a series this good in a long time which leaves me with one last thought for this frantic, rambling review: Veronica Roth, you are a master of words.

I give it a 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.co.uk/
Pages: 525
Publisher: HarperCollins
Challenges: None

Related Posts: 
Book 1: Divergent - Veronica Roth

Monday, 25 February 2013

On My Bookshelf (35) - The Vlog Edition

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've only ever done one vlog before, although I admire those that do one every week. My reasoning is that I'm awkward around people I know in general so going so on camera to no-one in particular while I'm alone in my house is even more awkward although I did finally relax after a couple of false starts for this one.
So why the surprise vlog? Erm, well Lucy from Queen of Contemporary is mostly to blame for that one! She commented that I hadn't done a vlog which I had promised to do if she did one (Lucy, done my side, now onto you!) so this is the product.

Please excuse the close up of my face as the still - I know it's a bit off-putting. I only found out once I loaded it to Blogger. Also, somewhere in there I just start chatting to myself about the South Bank - I LITERALLY DON'T KNOW WHY. So yep. Let me know what you think and let me know if you think it's as awful as I thought it went. 


Bought (links to Goodreads): 


What do you think of the vlog, please let me know? Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? 

Friday, 22 February 2013

Discussion: Libraries

*I'm not someone who write discussions naturally but after a few bloggers saying they would like to see more of them on Rebecca-Books, I thought I would try and improve. So this is the first one of hopefully many in 2013!*

As a book blogger, I don't think I would have read as many brilliant books as I would have done had I not had access to a library. There is something truly brilliant when entering a library, sometimes multiple stories, devoted entirely to books. That you can bring home with you, for free! There is a lot of stick about the whole library system, about the cleanliness of the books that go in and out of homes constantly, whether the library is still somewhere people visit still or if it's money wasted that could be put more effectively into things like heath care or education. I can see the cons of libraries but for a reader and someone who has to stop herself grabbing every book I see, the pros are far more dominant and far more important than money.

Libraries, like reading itself, are technically a form of entertainment. But for some it's an experience. From a young age, my Nan, a person I spend a large amount of time with in my childhood because both my parents worked full time, encouraged me to venture to the library frequently, be it somewhere to drop me off while she went food shopping in the summer holidays, browse the books for the next exciting thing to read or to go to one of the many activities or workshops my local library hosted. It's fair to say libraries have been a central part of my childhood and grown up with me.

Throughout my younger years, I always visited the same library, not realising there were others I could go to. This library was so small but most of it was taken up by computers and the children's section. I loved rifling through the books, always avoiding the 'Teenage' section on the right hand wall. I loved looking through the DVD's although I only took one out on occasion (in my library you have to pay to take out the DVD's). I liked sitting in the silence absorbed in a book, I liked the temporary ownership of a book that you didn't need to buy necessarily, you could spread the love of the book to strangers. Let's face it, the book that was the most popular was always the one with the ripped pages and pages upon pages of stamps dating back 5 years or so. This single library blossomed my love for literature, introduced me to the teenage genre after I'd read nearly all the good books in the 9+ section. It's where I remember discovering authors such as Patrick Ness, Sarah Dessen, Caroline Lawrence, Jane Austen, Anna Godbersen, Mary Hooper and N.M.Browne who I all still love and cherish their books today.

When I was about probably 13/14 (so like 4/5 years ago), I suddenly discovered the library system out of this single library in the other nearby towns. They were in much bigger, elaborate buildings - an old government building and an old school - and with that they had bigger 'Teenage' sections and a better selection of books. I abandoned the original library I frequented for these others because I was older and they had better selections in both the 'Teenage' and 'Fiction' sections. I always knew about my old library and did consider revisiting several times but I thought I would never find anything I wanted to read having read most of the good books there already. A couple of years ago, in my area they modernised the libraries, having new cards (although I STILL use my original library card I've had since I was about 5), new systems and in turn, these machines to replace the librarians that you borrow, return and check your account from. Ironically, I can go to the library without talking to a single person because of the introduction of these self-serve machines. The two libraries I visited got refurbished and I was accustomed to that, I guess always assuming nothing would happen to the library I originally visited in my younger years.

That was until last week. I got off the train at a different stop, a stop that my train stops at less frequently but is closer to my house. I was earlier having been allowed to miss my last lesson. I was in a good mood, it was the start of half term and I didn't want to face my mother sooner than necessary. I found myself wandering through the charity shops, walking down the alleys I visited when I was younger, buying something in the local Tesco's and then suddenly, my feet found themselves outside my old library. My first library in a way. On walking in, I was in a little bit of shock. There used to be a huge circle desk in the middle, meaning you had to walk entirely around it before you reached the Children's section. There would always be 4 or 5 librarians working at the desk, talking to you as you walked in, getting one more person to sign up to the library. Although from the outside it looks the same as it did 10 years ago, the inside is completely different. It's much more open plan, more spacious with a small desk with one librarian I didn't recognise in the corner with three of these self-serve machines surrounding him - on guard in a way. I glanced in the children's area. Now, that was completely UNCHANGED although with the addition of some noisy secondary school kids talking about who they love and who they hate. I looked at the 'Teenage' section which, although with some newer books, still had the books I had borrowed years ago, still ripped from love, still with their plastic covers attached. It was a real blast from the past.

I wasn't going to get anything out of the library after exploring it for about 10 minutes. Until I came across a 'Young Adult' section near the door. It was then something came to mind. This library isn't the most popular and I would be surprised if I learnt it was at danger of closing down. But this is the first library where I've seen a completely separate 'Teenage' and 'Young Adult' section. It struck me how much this library must care or know about the current book market, they understand the difference between YA and Teenage books which I don't think even at work they do. Sometimes I feel ashamed, being 18, and still reading teenage books, I feel I should have moved on by now but I can't tear myself away. But on seeing this, I know there is a difference between the two and it was heart-breaking in a way to see that a library, I hadn't loved for years, understood that more than a bookshop or any of the bigger libraries. To me, it showed they were trying to accommodate for young people such as myself, helping us read books for our interest and age. There was a mixture of books I know were YA and books I would have thought would be in the 'Fiction' section.
I'm not sure why I had such an emotional response to finding the 'Young Adult' section in my local, neglected library - I guess the building just means a lot to my childhood and to my contribution to the blogging world.
The icing on the cake really was when I was leaving. I saw this lady who I did recognise talking to another librarian. She turned around and caught my eye and I remembered her from working part-time at the library, part-time at my nursery and had known my Nan well. She looked so surprised to see me that she actually hugged me. She exclaimed 'Rebecca! How are you? How old are you now?' I replied I was fine and I had just turned 18. The look on her face was just pure shock, probably remembering a 7 year-old Rebecca charging towards the children's area. Then, she said 'I haven't seen you here in a while, what's happened? Have you gone off reading?' I think it was my turn to look shocked, I told her I was reading more than ever and briefly mentioned the blog which she was delighted to hear about saying she'd check it out. I left with my library books, looking forward to going back and seeing her again, amazed she remembered me after so long.
My encounter really just shows the value of community on libraries and bookshops and how although we've had libraries for as long as many of us can remember, they aren't stuck in the past - they move with it. And something like that vale of community you will not find on Amazon.

UPDATE: A day after writing this, I was speaking to my assistant manager about the teenage section at work and he suggested putting a Young Adult section in!

To (I hope) enhance what I'm trying to say about libraries, I asked Lucy from Queen of Contemporary to tell me a little bit about what she thinks:
"I can't remember a time when I didn't enjoy going to the library. From a young age, I was encouraged to pick up as many books as the library allowed and then would spend the afternoon reading them with my mum. So, you see, I have been an avid reader from day one. Why should we support our libraries? That's an easy question to answer, for me. Libraries aren't just there for people who like silence or old, dusty tomes; they're there to help people who don't have enough money to buy books themselves or don't want to splurge out on a book they're only going to read once. I know that a library local to me runs lots of events for both readers and writers and I am going to be fortunate enough to attend two of these next week. More of us should be going to the library because otherwise they'll be shut down. I know a lot of libraries in England are losing their funding and are having to close and there are a lot of people who feel passionate enough to campaign and really do something to make a change. Of course, libraries don't only contain books. They also have DVDs, music and audio books on offer and some even have internet access for you to use. So we really do need them in more ways than you could think."

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Divergent - Veronica Roth (#1)

In normal Rebecca style, I have literally only just got round to reading this book. I'm not sure why it took me so long because I've always been intrigued and knew it would be a book I would enjoy, especially after seeing the great reviews.
I bought a copy in a Waterstones sale last year when I had a morning gallivanting around town with two friends as the trains were severely delayed. It was only really when I heard the news about the upcoming movie adaptation of this series combined with my friend practically forcing me to read it, that I decided I better read it.

Synopsis: In Beatrice's world, society has been spilt into five factions dedicated to a particular virtue that they believe caused the previous war. There is Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Erudite (knowledge), Amity (peace) and Abnegation (selflessness). When every girl and boy turns sixteen, they take an aptitude test to test their reactions to certain situations that ultimately determines the faction they belong in. They are then giving the choice to stay within the faction they were born in or transfer, leaving their family behind. For Beatrice, she feels she does not belong in her birth faction of Abnegation and makes a choice that surprises everyone. In the tough, competitive initiation test of Dauntless, Beatrice undergoes physical endurance and simulations that test psychologically, constantly assessing her. Beatrice is different to the others she competes with, she has a secret, she is a type of person in a society where it is extremely dangerous to be that person. The seemingly perfect society is changing, yet no-one knows to what extent.

Review: Sometimes being a book blogger becomes annoying when you love a book so much, you just don't know how to justify it in words. It's just good. 
I know this book has reviewed over and over again since it's release last year so I'm sure what I have to say about why I loved this book has been said all before. I'll try to not just rant, but this is one of the hardest reviews I've had to write since my review for The Fault in Our Stars. I've actually been delaying writing it for about a week now but as I'm dangerous close to the end of Insurgent, I guessed I better get this review written before I get confused.

Just wow. Oh sweet lord, wow. I loved everything. The characters, the amazing, clever, terrifying and great world, the factions, the writing, the plot, THE ACTION. Just...everything.

Beatrice is an interesting character. She lives in a world where she is required to act and behave a certain way, yet has to watch those around her at school act in an opposite way. From starting this novel, it was obvious Beatrice was more of a Dauntless kind of gal rather than Abnegation - the jealousy and superior attitude she has for them comes across the page as she describes some Dauntless-born teenagers in one of the first scenes.
When Beatrice makes a terrifying leap (yes, pun intended if you understand it), she renames herself Tris and becomes a character you just have to love. Stubborn, tough, emotional, empathic and brave - she is well-rounded and I liked that about her. You don't see particularly any characters in YA now that could be described as significantly tough or physically strong yet understands empathy and shows their emotions, and it's that I liked about Tris.

While I'm on the subject of characters, can I just mention FOUR?! OH MY. Okay, I have to admit I wasn't his #1 fan to begin with and if I was going into this novel completely blind, I would not have known that HE would be the love interest. I mean he doesn't seem interested, he's in a superior role to Tris and he's just not that likeable - he's scary. And he's mysterious (which I guess is why all the girls swoon over him) - what you find out about him, I did not see coming at all. BUT OH MY. Something about him just makes you want to just, you know, take him with you everywhere. I think it's the moment when Tris sort of does the conventional 'Oh why didn't I noticed HIM?' that I, as a reader, was like 'HEY FOUR' instead of 'Please don't hurt me Four'. When his relationship with Tris develops and sparks fly, there is something so great about it that made me love the moments of intimacy Roth includes between the pair stuck in the middle of all this chaos. She makes you forget about the other bad events happening and focus on how wonderful this partnership is before throwing you back into the action again. I loved Four and Tris, and to be honest, I loved all the characters in this book - Al (although by the end I was like 'Please go'), Christina, Will (So many tears), Uriah, Marlene, Caleb - they all create a beautiful yet slightly haunting and heart-wrenching novel.

The action. OH MY. I thought The Hunger Games was pretty action packed but DIVERGENT slightly tops it. Unlike The Hunger Games where there's just danger thrown at them constantly, DIVERGENT has lots of action but you're not necessarily always put on edge by it all. The novel contains mostly Tris' experiences as an initiate in Dauntless - learning to fit in and to fight but also trying to get top of the class as her Abnegation blood and small height puts her at a disadvantage. Dauntless as a scary crowd and I don't think I would have chosen them myself, even for Tris' reasons - they have no losers. It's only really the last quarter of DIVERGENT that everything really starts kicking off with some haunting, brilliantly written scenes that had me hesitant to stop reading.
The action is so fast and so thrilling. It is literally just one thing hitting you after another. Sometimes action to this level can get extremely confusing, disorientating or just too much but even though Roth makes you visualise the action so vividly, I was never confused or freaked out by what I was reading. The action makes this book rather epic in a way, never boring and wanting me to keep on reading and reading where ever I was. The ending is just...wow. It is quite something, something beautiful, tragic and superb all at once. It also is a cliffhanger (although not as big as Catching Fire was) but it's also a moment of hope that I wish would carry on into Insurgent - a book I will devour like this one.

I know my words are probably sound completely like they've been thrown together in a hurry but I think it's merely because really there are little words to describe how I felt about this book - it's something that needs to be experienced. The characters were extraordinary, the action sensational, all set in a world that has got to be one of the cleverest yet in dystopian fiction. This is a book of romance and loyalty, bravery and suspense, war and identity that was utterly heartbreaking and uncomfortable to read at times. In a sentence: DIVERGENT was breathtaking.

I give it a 5 out of 5

Author's Website: http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.co.uk/
Pages: 487
Publisher: HarperCollins
Challenges: None

Related Reviews: 
Candor by Pam Bachorz
Shadow Web by N.M.Browne
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Breathe by Sarah Crossan
The Declaration by Gemma Malley
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Monday, 18 February 2013

On My Bookshelf (34) - BIRTHDAY EDITION

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 for about a month now so I've collected a lot of books! That was a conscious decision as a week ago it was...MY EIGHTEENTH BIRTHDAY. Yes, I am officially an adult that can vote, drink and who knows what else. It's great to finally not be classed as a child anymore and although I don't feel any older being that age, I think it was because I was ready way before my birthday to be 18. It's weird thinking about that really.
Anyway, I had a lovely day involving lots of cake, wine and just consuming food and drink for most of the day. I hadn't really asked for anything specific but had subconsciously put a list up in my room of the books on my wishlist - let's just say I think my mother must have noticed it (for the record, I didn't put it up as a hint, literally did it for myself). So behold, I was gifted with mostly books...not that I mind AT ALL.


Gifted:

- The Lucky Ones by Anna Godbersen - When I heard in October last year about the release of the final book in the Bright Young Things trilogy, I knew it would be a book I would definitely buy. Anna Godbersen is an author that I instantly know I will enjoy and I have loved the last two books in the series, Bright Young Things (my review) and Beautiful Days (my review) as well as her previous quartet named The Luxe. I was a little bit confused that they decided to publish this book in hardback rather than straight to paperback like the others in the series. But I wanted this book too much to have to wait until July for the paperback...

- Meant To Be by Lauren Morrill - I wanted this book the instant I read the blurb online. Since then, I've seen a number of reviews for this that praise it over and over again for the sweetness of the characters. I was so surprised when I opened up my present to find this because at the moment it's only published in America. Ah so excited to read this and 'aww' over all the characters. 

- Cinder by Marissa Meyer - I read this last year and Meyer soon became one of my favourite authors as well as Cinder being one of the best books I read in 2012. I got the copy I read out of the library so for a book I loved so much, I wanted a copy of it to pass around my friends spreading the love.  (My Review)

- Scarlet by Marissa Meyer - If you read my comment on Cinder, it should be unsurprising that Scarlet appeared on my wishlist as well. Scarlet is the next one in The Lunar Chronicles and a book I have been anticipating for so, so long. My mother even expressed her interest in this one because of the cover!

- Just One Day by Gayle Forman - OH MY. Gayle Forman is one of these authors that takes your heart, twists and tears it a little, replaces it and then waits until the end of her novel to break it all over again. Seriously, If I Stay (my review) and Where She Went (my review) have one of the best love stories. I was going to buy a copy of this after my birthday and gladly I waited! Just One Day is set in Paris I believe, which I visited in December so looking forward to seeing what places Forman mentioned!

- Paper Towns by John Green - When one of my best friends, Emma, asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I told her the typical, 'You don't have to get anything', 'I don't know what I want', 'Whatever you get I'll like'. But it did struck me when we were fangirling discussing the John Green event that although Paper Towns in my second favourite John Green books, I don't actually own a copy of it. So after a casual hint 'Paper Towns is missing on my shelf' and the fake-surprised expression when I opened her present, I rectified that. (My Review of Paper Towns)


Quotes Bookmarks - This is where the banner proclaiming 'I love my friends!' comes in. This was one of the last presents I opened yet something I will remember. I had already been given a handmade music box and a beautiful photo album so I didn't know what else could beat that! This was from my friend Emma, who I have mentioned before on the blog, a lovely person who I befriended in my English Literature class last year over our mutual love for books, The Great Gatsby and working in Waterstones. 
These are bookmarks. But not any bookmarks. These have quotes on them that Emma uniquely chose that all mean something to me. There are quotes from The Fault in Our Stars, the book I first spoke to her about, and Dash and Lily's Book of Dares, the first book of hers I borrowed. They mean something and it is one of the best presents I have ever received. She is made of amazingness. 

Bought:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - At the John Green event I attended at the beginning of the month, I was given a free book as part of my entry ticket already signed by John and Hank Green which is just...ah! This book I would recommend to anyone, seriously (here's my review). I kind of over-recommend it at work sometimes, like 'THIS IS AN AMAZING BOOK. YOU NEED TO BUY IT'. Yes, I can be a crazy bookseller sometimes. If you didn't see my post on the event, have a lookie here 


Library:

- Bringing the Summer by Julia Green - I read Drawing With Light (my review) by this author a few years ago and quite enjoyed it. I've seen a few reviews for this around and spotted it at the library a couple of times before. I love the cover, it screams summer to me so hopefully this book will make me look forward to the summer more. 

- The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin - I think I'm heavily influenced by the reviews I see on the blogosphere because I merely picked this up in the new found 'Young Adult' section of my local library because I've heard only good things about it. It looks rather haunting from the cover, but I'm interested to see how much.


Swag:


FINALLY. I also received these from author, Sarah Crossan, author of dystopian, Breathe (my review)- a book I enjoyed incredibly. She asked if any UK bloggers wanted these on Twitter, so of course, I jumped at the offer. I didn't realise that they would be sent from America though! So thank you so much Sarah Crossan for these, I'm already using them. 



And done. Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Let me know in the comments section below!


Saturday, 16 February 2013

News

Sorry for the lack of posting this week for starters, it's been busy with birthday things, college work and going out in the evenings. Tuesday, after a 2 and a half hour bus journey home from college because of a problem with the trains, I finally reached my friend's house to make pancakes! They weren't amazingly successful but a nice finish to the day after such a long bus journey.
Then, on Valentines Day, instead of spending the evening staring lovingly into a guy's eyes while trying not to gag at the horribleness that is Valentines Day, I went to Wagamammas with a couple of my friends to drown our sorrows in not having a Valentine. Ironically, two of the people I went with do in fact have boyfriends but they agreed with my disgust for the 14th February. An evening of eating noodles and doughnuts is far more enjoyable than my usual awkwardness with guys.
And then finally, yesterday I went out with some more friends for dinner as a belated birthday thing for me which was lovely as I haven't spent time with those friends in a while. Although the news that I was the only single person at the time out of 5 of us made me hate this time of year more. I can barely manage my own life, let alone someone else's, so yes, Valentines Day was uneventful again this year.

Moving away from the depressing teenage love talk, I'm on half term this week so I have more time to read, review and blog so watch out for those! I have at least one review in the making, a discussion post and a new 'On My Bookshelf' this week.

On a final note, I was interviewed by Clover over at Fluttering Butterflies as part of her amazing feature that I read EVERY week, Celebrating British Bloggers. I did the interview a couple of months ago now so some of the answers are a little out of date but do go and have a look and comment - Clover is so lovely as is her blog and ah, all her posts. I love it - here's the link.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Eleven Eleven - Paul Dowswell

Paul Dowswell is an author that isn't too well-known. But this is actually the second book I have read by him, the first being the simply brilliant Auslander (review) focusing on life in Nazi Germany during World War II.
ELEVEN ELEVEN is Dowswell's new offering to the YA historical fiction world centred around the last day of World War I - something that intrigued me enough to pick up this book as I don't think I've ever seen a book on this subject before.
I'd seen this at work and had wondered whether to buy it, never quite sure. So when I saw it in my local library, I was thrilled to have a chance to read it. This isn't an author you see frequently around the blogosphere so I went into this book blind, hoping for another amazing and shocking story like Auslander. I was hardly disappointed.

Synopsis: In the final 24 hours of World War I on the 11th November 1918, a German storm trooper, American airman and British Tommy are all on a battlefield in France fighting for their countries, oblivious that at 11am, fighting will cease. After a series of events, the three young boys find themselves depending on one another for survival as 11am strikes. A friendship forms and soon their place of birth doesn't matter. But who will survive the 11th November and who will live?

Review: This isn't a book I would normally go for. I like books with romance or an element of dystopian so combined with the intrigue about the topic, I was mostly starting this book because of absolutely loving Dowswell's other book, Auslander.

Some historical war fiction books normally focus on at least one of two things: it is set nearly always in World War II or set only in one country from one country's point of view which normally leaves Germany not looking that fantastic. Eleven, Eleven subverts the latter drastically with having protagonists from different countries and doing different jobs to help the war giving the novel a more rounded perspective of the day. There is Will, a British soldier who has been in France for months after being persuaded my his sweetheart's father to go to war (a farce to get him away from his daughter in the hope that Will would get killed). Eddie, an American pilot that has killed four Germans and needs his fifth to arrive home a war hero. And finally Axel, a young German foot soldier on his first day of fighting (and the last day at war). The protagonists neither had a great impact on me or annoy me but I left the story caring about what would happen to them, especially after a final revelation literally on the last line. I just liked that this was a book that was completely different to any other YA historical war fiction that I've had the fortune to read.

So I liked the protagonists, they were down to earth, realistic and more to the point, likeable, I felt for them. The development and pacing of the story however, was a little disappointing. From my recollection of Auslander, the story was constantly moving with event after event which is how you would expect in these type of books. However, in Eleven Eleven, I was not immediately grabbed and wanting desperately to find out what would happen. No, it took a while for me to get into the story and for the story really to start developing. And then when the story really got going, it was a few chapters from the end. The part where the three boys come together is rather short especially as that is essentially a pivotal moment to the narrative. They are together for a couple of chapters, help each other and then separate. As I saw suggested on one review on Goodreads, for me, the book could have been longer with more impact and drama from the moment that Will, Axel and Eddie meet.

I have to award Dowswell however for the writing. Sometimes book can make you feel smile, laugh, be uncomfortable and sad within a few pages and this is one of those said books. It is what I love about good literature where the author can manipulate your feelings within just a chapter. Dowswell makes you feel both hopeful for the characters until suddenly there's this destruction and death and it makes that hope seem completely impossibly unreachable. This mixture was just so heartbreaking to read about that shows the true stark reality of World War I. By the end, despite the pace, I was so intrigued to see who would be alive - would Eddie, Will AND Axel make it? Would their family die? You'll have to read it to find out!

World War I is a time that little of us I think know much about apart from the basic portrayals from dramas and comedies like Blackadder Goes Forth and first person accounts or biographies. It is a topic I think a lot of writers avoid because of the devastation of this war, the politics and the fact that World War II happened a shorter amount of time ago. Dowswell gives a realistic and brutal portrayal of the time aimed directly at young people that really resonates. This is an incredibly short read, but boy, does it pack a huge punch at the end. Brilliant.

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website: www.pauldowswell.co.uk/
Pages: 224
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Challenges: Historical Fiction, BBC

Related Books: 
Auslander - Paul Dowswell
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas - John Boyne
Chocolate Cake With Hitler - Emma Craigie
Once - Morris Gleitzman


Saturday, 9 February 2013

John Green London Event

As soon as I heard via Twitter that John Green, the author of The Fault in Our Stars, Looking for Alaska and Paper Towns among others, was coming to the UK on a tour to promote the paperback release of The Fault in Our Stars (TFIOS), I knew I had to go. I had to.
That was back in December, when I texted my friend - an equally massive fan of John Green's work - who replied with a lot of capital letters and exclamations marks and after a nerve-racking 20 minutes involving a slow computer and an overworked booking system, I was the holder of two tickets to the hottest book event in town. I was going to see John Green in a fancy hall in Chelsea, London with two very good friends. And Hank Green would be there *faints*
(Sorry about the quality of the photos! The lights kind of drowned out the stage on my camera)

Fast forward exactly 6 weeks and I was walking down the ever-so-posh Sloane Street on the way to Cadogan Hall for the John Green event fangirling already with my friend. Now, for those that don't know this area of London, Sloane Street is a shopping street in the heart of London, near Kensington, Knightsbridge and the King's Road (which Kate Middleton went shopping down the day before her wedding). However, I won't be shopping there because EVERY SHOP WAS A DESIGNER SHOP. Literally, all these teenagers were going to a John Green event in one of the poshest areas of London, something I found a little funny.

Waiting for the talk to start clutching my free copy of TFIOS
On arriving to the venue, we were led to this grand hall with a Waterstones bag filled with our already signed book by John and Hank Green and tickets at the ready. It was such a lovely venue really, very intimate despite sitting near the back. After a 10 minute conversation with my friend filled with excitement and just looking at each other saying over and over again 'How did this happen? John Green is HERE', suddenly a Penguin representative was introducing John Green and suddenly John Green was striding across the stage and saying hi through the microphone and there was cheering and clapping and everyone was like 'THIS IS HAPPENING' and ah, it was magical really.

John Green reading from book
John Green talked a little bit about his book and how he came up with the idea and the long, long process it took to write it and then read the first few pages of The Fault in Our Stars (after borrowing a copy from an audience member whose name he couldn't say) and with one of the best views, I realised how lucky I really was to be sitting there, laughing at John Green's jokes and listening to a guy who wrote one of the best books I have had the fortune to read. I mean I feel bad for going compared to those that didn't go, like Lucy from Queen of Contemporary because it was just one of the best experiences ever.

Maureen Johnson asking Hank and John Green
the questions
Soon, Hank Green came on (John Green's brother who does a lot of YouTube videos) and sung some songs , none of which I really knew too well but I loved them anyway. The Book 8 song about the Harry Potter series finishing? IT IS STILL STUCK IN MY HEAD. Then, Maureen Johnson was walking on the stage! I was going to go to a Maureen Johnson event a couple of months ago but couldn't go in the end which I was a little upset about so having her there, in front of me was a bit surreal. So there was John Green, Hank Green and Maureen Johnson all on the stage with Maureen asked questions to the Greens. The talk closed with John and Hank Green singing I Would Walk 500 Miles by The Proclaimers which was funny with their American accents and the whole crowd's English accent over the top.

I did manage a sneaky shot as they started the 
signing in better lighting. 
 I didn't get to meet in person John Green (I was sitting near the back and they started with the balcony and we knew it would take ages and we had a signed book already anyway!) but I am so, so glad I was one of the lucky ones able to attend the event. It was one of the best afternoons I've had and I don't think I've laughed so much in 90 minutes. John Green is someone entirely special to me and many others. His books just make me feel like I'm not the only person in the world feeling like his characters do, that reading should be encouraged rather than discouraged with its association with geekiness. Not only have I loved all the Green books I've read, but they've also helped me forge friendships with others. I first realised my friend, Emma and I's common interest in books when I noticed Emma was reading The Fault in Our Stars under the desk in an English class. And when our English teacher showed a video about The Great Gatsby with John Green in and Emma and I were the only ones to shout 'That's John Green!'. The friend I went to the event with, Ellie, one of the first topics we talked about when we first met in Classics last year was John Green's book when I saw her reading one. My first John Green book, Looking for Alaska, was given to me by my best friend. John Green's books unites everyone - bloggers, nerdfighters, friends - which showed me that you're never alone.
If you haven't read The Fault In Our Stars yet, you need to right now. I have never read anything so perfect.


Me with my proud Waterstones bag
My signed book with John Green's signature
and a Hankler fish! 

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Geek Girl - Holly Smale

GEEK GIRL has swept through book blogs and Twitter every where in a frenzy, and this book hasn't even been released yet. The appeal certainly, for me at least, was in the title. Everyone has that little bit of geek inside of them waiting to be unleashed but in today's culture, especially for teenagers, being a geek is seen as something wrong, so we hide it as much as we can.
I'm not one to deny that I am, and have been called in all the variations of the word, an utter geek. I mean, my whole life evolves around books and one of my favourite past times is finding out the scandals and deaths of important Tudor and German Reformation people (FACT: Martin Luther, aka the guy who created Protestantism, was related to Von Hindenburg - the President of Germany when Hitler was Chancellor!).
So picking up this book, after encouragement from some people on Twitter, left me waiting and embracing Harriet's geekiness - I love books like this!

Synopsis: Harriet knows a lot of things. Yet she can't quite understand why the people at her school dislike her so much. So when she is spotted by a modelling agency, she grabs the opportunity to reinvent herself, despite also stealing her best friend's dream and humiliating herself in front of the ever so lovely Nick in the process. It also means lying to a whole bunch of people that matter to Harriet's life. As Harriet tries to convert herself into suiting the fashion world, she realises the fashion world doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world.

Review: I'm pretty sure nearly everyone (perhaps not people that are just too gorgeous like Kate Moss or Taylor Swift and yes, Taylor Swift ALWAYS looks good) has liked the idea of reinventing themselves with an extra touch of lipstick, a dress that you would never normally wear or just simply acting in a different way in a bid to fit in. I'm 100% sure I have, and probably still do.
It is this idea that EVERYONE has experienced that Holly Smale uses to create the magical, hilarious and lovely character of Harriet Manners who was honestly a breath of fresh air from some of the characters that are coped time and time again, always caught in the same love triangle with the same type of people. It's good...but it gets boring.

GEEK GIRL is not boring by far, with event after event happening to Harriet with a mixture of results that make this book so compelling and slightly addictive to read. I mostly picked this book up because I was attracted to the idea of a protagonist that was a) English but not like 'Oh pass me the pot of tea, daaarling' because like no-one in England speaks like that, except perhaps me; b) NOT the most popular kid in school and was a geek and PROUD which I can totally sympathise to; and c) is completely relatable to me who blogs, been called a nerd/geek/neek on several occasions and likes the idea of reinventing oneself.
However, I ended this book still loving the whole array of characters, especially Harriet, but also the writing and plot that kept we reading until the early hours of the morning. Harriet is one special character.

On the subject of Harriet, I loved the mixture of teenage angst and sarcasm that comes across on the page that really makes this an interesting read. Harriet's narration about the fashion world, her hilarious adventures and just whenever she said 'Sugar cookies' made this a lovely, funny, little read, perfect for a beach read or as a light relief on a journey. A reader doesn't read this for the literacy uses of a metaphor but as one of those fluffy, light reads which you just relax into reading - a perfect read when I had a bit of a stressful week.

If I could criticise this book in any way, I did feel that the other characters could be developed a little bit more, like Nick and Nat who are key to the story, especially Nick, but I felt they weren't given much page time. Oh and at the beginning I DID NOT like Annabel - so mean! I also felt the story at times got a little bit TOO fluffy, although as soon as Harriet said 'sugar cookies', I was engrossed once again in the story. For those that don't know much about the fashion world, this novel certainly gives you a sense of the rush and pressure of this unknown world. Harriet lives many people's dreams, not only Nat's, yet this book shows that comes at a price.

I came away from this book having a little bit more self-confidence in some ways. I learn that we shouldn't try to change ourselves so drastically as Harriet imagines because sometimes being ourselves is what people prefer; I also learnt that the fashion world is dangerous, we shouldn't lie to the people we love, no-one wants a crazy stalker like Toby and finally, everyone needs someone like Wilbur in their life, for sure.
Harriet is the perfect symbol to teenagers, including myself, that you shouldn't hide your geekiness away from the outside world. Sometimes being a geek is one of the best things to be.

Thank you to HarperCollins and Netgalley for allowing me to review this book!

I give it a 4 out of 5

Author's Website: https://twitter.com/HolSmale
Pages: 378
Publisher: HarperCollins
Challenges: BBC

GEEK GIRL is released on 28th February 2013 in the UK

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Bookish Moments

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and The Bookish. 

1. JOHN GREEN TALK - I think many Nerdfighters will top this as the best moment ever. At the end of the talk, I just looked at my friend Ellie and said 'What just happened?' which I think pretty much sums up everything. Amazing. Absolutely once in a lifetime moment. (I'm in the middle of preparing a post all about it!)

2. When Patrick Ness knew who I was - This is an interesting and slightly weird anecdote. I went to an event for the publication of an anthology all on the subject of *small voice* virginity where many famous authors - Mary Hooper, Sophie McKenzie and Patrick Ness - contributed (for the record I was going for the authors rather than the book, which I still have). I had written a review on Amazon and the blog commenting on these spaces that I saw in Losing It, the anthology, when flicking through. Was it a printing error? Or was it intentional? At the signing, I told Patrick my name for him to sign (after an awkward exchange when I thought I was related to Mary Hooper) and his reaction? 'Are you the Rebecca that wrote that comment on Amazon because those blanks were intentional'. Yes. Oh yes. I had a lovely chat with him and the next day, looking at his blog, I noticed he mentioned the event I had attended saying 'Got to meet lots of readers, including Rebecca from the Comments page; Hi Rebecca!'. I fangirled for a long time...


3. First being tweeted to by Marie-Louise Jensen and Caroline Lawrence - Caroline Lawrence and Marie-Louise Jensen are authors that I have grown up with, especially Caroline Lawrence's Roman Mysteries series (which I've loved since I was 8) so the first time they tweeted me, it was a moment of shock and just happiness on my part. I love that you can do that on Twitter with people that have been a part of your life for a long time. 


4. When John Green made an appearance in an English Literature class - Not literally unfortunately. We were studying The Great Gatsby, a book John Green has made numerous videos about. As an introduction, our teacher was like 'Here's a Youtube video I found that explains the basics of what happens' and suddenly there was John Green's face. I think two of us said in unison 'THAT'S JOHN GREEN' in excited tones - me and a girl in the class who I didn't know too well at the time, Emma. Emma is now one of my closest friends. John Green truly unites people. 


5. Meeting Mary Hooper - Ditto really to #3, I've read Mary Hooper's books throughout my teenage years so to meet her and get my dog-eared copy of Eliza Rose signed was simply magical. She was so lovely and wanted to hear truthfully what I thought of her books which I think she liked my ranting for like 5 minutes about how great a writer she is. And she was thrilled to find out her books had got me into historical fiction. 


6. Getting a job at Waterstones - Ironically, the moment I heard I'd got a permanent job at Waterstones (after being a temp over Christmas) was in a lunch break for a Great Gatsby conference trip I was on with my English Literature class (was so much more interesting than it sounds). My manager rang me up and asked me a couple of questions before dropping the bomb that they wanted me to work there at the weekends, I think I giggled and was high pitched and talked around in circles as he spoke to me but I came back from lunch to tell my teacher that I'd picked up a job in our lunch break. Fate, methinks. 

7. Feeling a part of the blogging community - Whenever I see a lovely comment or get tweeted or mentioned by another blogger, it just makes me realise how much of an impact being a blogger has on my day to day life. I once thought people would find me weird to admit that, but my friends think it's pretty cool - one way to work out your true friends really...

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Blogger of the Month!

Yep, me again.

Just a little note to say that I'm the Blogger of the Month over at Hopeless Devoted Bibliophile run by the lovely Jessica.
Go and have a look at an interview I did with her and while you're there, have a look around her blog! I've followed HDB for a while now (this was actually one of the first blogs I followed) - she writes some of the best reviews.

Click here for the link to the interview.

My Blogging Resolutions 2013

I'm a firm believer in starting your resolutions, if you're going to have any, in February. I mean everyone is normally still celebrating Christmas with minor family in January so FOOD and DRINK. If you're going to reduce your alcohol or food intake, THAT'S out the window. And everyone is stressed and down about Christmas and New Year being over so, February is really when the year gets going (and also my birthday!).

I asked you (yes, you too!) to fill in a short questionnaire about what you thought about Rebecca-Books in 2012 and what could be improved on. I have a phenomenal response with largely lovely comments that literally, brightened up MY January.
Here are the results, just in, and what I'll be trying to improve on this year!


Question 1: Do you enjoy the reviews?
100% said yes, phew. With one response saying the person devoured my reviews. I hope not literally.


Question 2: What do you like about my reviews?
'They're informative, detailed and interesting'
'They don't give away plot twists, which means that we have to read the books to find out why you have certain feelings about things which you haven't mentioned'
'I love that they're detailed and I wish I could write ones as good as yours!'
'The detail of them supplies enough information for me to decide whether to read the book or not'

Okay, first I love these people above (it was anonymous by the way so I actually don't know who said this) and I am so happy the people find my reviews interesting and helpful. I do try not to give to much away and I do feel bad sometimes about how vague I can be because of that, so this is good to know people like that!



Question 3: What could be improved in my reviews?

'You sometimes verbally criticise books, but then your score for the book tends to be very good. I don't think that matches up very well'
'More concise reviews?'
'More of them!'

From what I can gather, this is basically what my English teacher says about my essays that I write too much and over-analyse things so I'm not surprised. I will be trying to write better, more concise reviews that are true to what I think about them (I feel bad when I give a 2...). And on the subject of more of them, I know I don't have a review published every single week but I'm an incredibly slow reader and try to write the reviews as well as I can.



Question 4: What are your thoughts on the style of language used in my reviews?

'It's informal, which I like, and well written'
'Your reviews have become far more sophisticated in vocabulary.'
'It's easy to read. You don't overuse certain words, which is good.'
'It is clear to understand but not boring. You create a welcoming feel to the blog which makes me want to read on'

Sometimes I think I just babble on and on incoherently but apparently not. I'm very happy someone noticed the change in vocabulary, that I feel is a definite improvement as that was one of my resolutions last year!


Question 5: What type of posts do you prefer?

The general consensus was that most of the people who completed the survey preferred reviews, book hauls or discussions with less liking updates about my life outside blogging. Go figure, really because I was a tad worried that people wanted more posts about non-blogger me, which to be honest, there is not a lot to say. If you do want some more of that though, then I suggest you follow me on Twitter because well, I rant to my hearts content about my days.
I will try to do more discussions though, it's just thinking of topics really!


Question 6: What type of posts would you like to see more of on Rebecca-Books in 2013?

'It would be great if you went out into the world doing book-ish things (book signings etc) and told us about it. Also good is comparing books and movies, like you did for Pride and Prejudice'
'Discussions! I love your discussions!'
'More classics'

I have seen a lot of book adaptations like Les Miserables, War Horse and The Hunger Games in the last year and I have been meaning to do some comparisons with the books but just haven't got round to it or weren't sure what to say but thank you the person who wrote that because I wondered if people liked that!
Yep, discussions will be present this year....And on the subject of classics, I have read quite a few classics for my English Literature course in 2012 - Frankenstein, The Catcher in the Rye, The Great Gatsby - but I just felt that it wasn't something I could either review or that would appeal to people who read my blog. But I may do a mini-review post of some of my favourite classics. Watch this space...


Question 7: What are your thoughts on the blog in general?
'I really like the layout; it's very organised and neat. Your blog is interesting and we similar interests in books so I get lots of recommendations. I also like that you have 'currently reading' and popular posts in the sidebar'
'It's great, you've come a long way.'
'I LOVE IT! Definitely one of my favourites!'
'Your blog is great, I really enjoy reading it. Your voice of your posts is friendly and your reviews are amazing!'
'I like that you do a variety of stuff that is suitable for adults and YA'

Well, I don't think I can say much more than that. I'm utterly shocked at how much people enjoy my blog, it really amazes me sometimes and I agree that I have come quite a long way from the sad little 14 year-old who geeked out to herself about books. I LOVE THE PEOPLE WHO COMPLETED THIS SURVEY, SO MUCH LOVE BEING THROWN AT YOU RIGHT NOW.


Question 8: What do you think about the look of Rebecca-Books?
'It's neat, simple and not too busy which I like and the sidebar is informative'
'It's very easy to navigate, I like that. The colours also go together well.'
'I love its minimalistic look!'
'There is not much crammed onto the sidebar which is good as it is quick for the page to load.'

This is all good to know because I know that my layout is quite boring and uncreative in a way, someone actually described it as dull once (true fact...) so this is lovely to hear and I know I don't have to change it!


Question 9: What genres do you normally enjoy?
Popular genres were YA (of course!), Chick Lit, Dystopian and Historical Fiction which is cool because I love those genres too. Just so glad no-one put supernatural really...


Question 10: What book are you most looking forward to in 2013?
Erm, NEARLY EVERYONE PUT BOOK 3 IN THE DIVERGENT SERIES. So I think I better start on the first book...
(On a side note, do you know what it means by 'new GOT' because I did not...)



So as a review, these are my blogging resolutions for 2013!

1. I will try to write reviews in a concise, non-ranty and easy to understand way

2. I will make sure the ratings I give to books truly reflect how I felt about the book and state why I gave it that rating.

3. I will try to post more discussions!

4. I will try to do some more posts on book adaptations and how they match up to the original book.

5. I will try to *finally* read the Divergent series this year

6. I will keep up the standard of the blog this year (which as a warning is going to be hard with *incredibly* important exams this year and then moving away to university. You'll hear about it, don't worry).


So that wraps up this post, I hope you liked the way I did this. Let me know what you think of the resolutions or any of the questions I asked in the survey. And THANK YOU to those that filled it in, I truly appreciate it. Have a nice week!