Monday, 7 January 2013

Fly On The Wall by Emily Lockhart

I don't know if I liked this one.

A girl named Gretchen at an art school has a crush on a boy called Titus. She wishes she could ask him out but she's nerdy and finds boys so mysterious, and she wishes she could be a fly on the wall in the boys' locker room to see how boys work. Her wish comes true. Like, literally, she turns into a fly.

This books main selling feature is that it's funny, which it is. It's got a sort of, crude, awkward humour but yes , it's humorous. The main character is slightly annoying but ultimately relatable. The book is short and an easy read.

Other than that, there's not much else. The characters, including Gretchen, don't seem to have a lot of depth. They all have issues and personalities, but there's not really time to look deep. I wasn't a particularly big fan of the writing style. The main bulk of the text was alright, but Lockhart has certain writing mannerisms which are annoying and repetitive.

It wasn't bad per say, but Fly On The Wall was not as good as I'd hoped.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Oh God the angst and feelings.

I really really like this book.

The Fault In Our Stars is a book which follows the life of Hazel, a cancer sufferer who meets fellow sufferer Augustus at her support group. Yes, it's a romance. And yes, that seems incredibly hypocritical as in various previous reviews I have moaned about the inclusion of romance in young adult fiction. I suppose the difference here is that the story of TFIOS is the romance and in those previous example there has been an existing story that a romance invades (in my mind) unnecessarily. TFIOS is a story more about how cancer (or perhaps it can be applied more generally to suffering) affects the people surrounding the sufferer and how this in turn affects the sufferer, as opposed to how the suffering affects them directly. This is makes for thoughtful insights which you can apply beyond cancer. I found the characters to be well written, original and developed. I was glad that the difficult ideas presented were not sugar coated for teenage readers: they were real and blunt. With that in mind, it's probably time to say how devastating this book is. The way it's written, being so real and set so deep in Hazel's mind, the story is sad (I cried) so I suppose this is a trigger warning for the book. Despite this there are unexpected aspects of humour in TFIOS which are particularly effective baring in mind the context of the story they sit in.Looking for faults, I'm struggling, but the most obvious one (apart from some aspects being unrealistic) is the ending. I did not mind the ending, but I do not think it was to quite scale with the rest of the book. Also, if you have read Looking For Alaska by John Green, it is similar.

This is probably my favourite book or at least close. I recommend it, but be prepared for sadness and sensitive topics.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

I read Wuthering Heights for a controlled assessment essay at school, and so I do have some displeasure linked to it, but I think I can detach myself from this.

Wuthering Heights is a gothic book set in Victorian Era Yorkshire. Without giving away any plot, I can say that it's a romance, although this isn't universal throughout the novel. It is also a novel about power, age, responsibility, trust and loss among other things. The term 'romance' suggests something a lot kinder and warmer than Wuthering Heights which is often really quite dark. It's very deep and complex but very interesting and intelligent.

This novel is dense, particularly before chapter 10. There is a lot of plot and a lot of information packed into fairly small spaces and despite my usually fast reading pace these chapters took me a long time to get through. The rest of the novel is not quite so hard going, but still are not exactly light reading. In addition, the book has many complications for the reader to keep up with: it has a 'chinese box' structure, meaning that there is one narrative inside another (at one point, Mr Lockwood is recounting Nelly recounting Cathy's reading of a letter from Isabelle - it's a lot to keep track of) or the fact that there are two characters with the same name. This is sometimes irritating, but I found that pacing yourself through Wuthering Heights rather than trying to rush it kept things in order.

Despite this, the novel is very interesting to read. The characters and plot develop vastly. The characters all have faults, most of which are quite dramatic which whilst it sounds dramatic ultimately makes for more captivating characters and reading.

In conclusion, this is a hard book to read. It's hard going and takes a long time to get through, as well as a lot of time in a dictionary and the footnotes. But it's also fascinating in a sort of creepily intriguing way.

(Also I did fabulously on that essay that doesn't influence how I feel at all not a bit I don't know what you're talking about)

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

All My Friends Are Superheroes by Andrew Kaufman

This is an odd book, and when I first started it (and even as I worked through it) I wasn't sure what to think of it. But I've thought about it a little and seem to have formed some opinions.
The book is a sort of comedic, reality-fantasy romance of some sort that doesn't try to be any of them (I told you it was odd). It is set in a world where being a superhero is fairly common place and the main character, who is not a super hero, is something of an anomaly. Whether Kaufman intended it or not, this idea of the fantastical becoming the norm is easily analogized with fame in today's culture: celebrity status is so much easier to reach these days and sometimes for no particular talent that the idea of fame has become less exclusive and thus less glamorous and interesting. I thought this very intelligent and particularly enjoyed it.
The story itself jumps around a lot. The 'present' in the book is really only a two or three hour period and the majority of the story is told via flashbacks. Despite this I found it relatively easy to follow. There were though, at seemingly random intervals, breaks from the story to give the reader a mini-biography of either minor characters or characters that were not mentioned at any other point in the book. I suppose they were to give the reader a little more context and to emphasise how common being a superhero was, but I didn't feel they were necessary. They just didn't need to be there.
I don't normally like romance and this book was essentially a romance. But what I liked and thought was different to other romance novels (like the extortionately high number of young adult books) was what it didn't try to hard to be a romance. It wasn't sappy and exaggerated: it was realistic (ignore the superheroes) and simple. It was blunt and honest but that was all that was necessary.
A clever, witty and funny little novella that I'm glad I read: I'd recommend it, especially if you are looking for something short.

(Side note: I apologize for the time it took for this review to come up. It turns out the pitiful British summer I expected was a lot hotter and I was bogged down with summer school work. After that, I went on holiday so I've only really just found the time. But you'll get Wuthering Heights soon because I finished that also, and soon Peter Pan.)

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Ah, At last! I've been reading Little Women so long and for no apparent reason. I know it's not a little book but I'm usually a fast reader and I've been reading it for ages. Anyway, I'm done now.

My introduction makes it sound like I didn't like reading the book which isn't true, I was just baffled at the time it was taking me. It really was a very sweet book and I can see why it is such a favourite. You follow the 'little women' from their teenage years into adulthood, through the various trials and troubles they face and how they overcome them with the help of their mother's experience, father's wisdom, friends' comfort and sisters' loyalty. It was very sweet, sometimes humorous or upseting, but overall enjoyable.

When reading this book though, remember the time period, because at times the girls are found near to tears over needing new gloves or not having a silk dress like that of richer friends, but social status was important then. Like I said earlier, the book took me a long time to read. This could be due to the amount of words I had to look up, whether I didn't know them or they were old words and sayings that might take a little puzzling out nowadays. Also, remember the time period when it comes to the ideas and morals put across. I'm sure that at the time Louisa May Alcott's ideas were ideal and proper, but some people might struggle when she explains that a woman's duty is to her home and husband entirely.

This book is very lovely and enjoyable, and I recommend it to all ages: it is specified as a children's book, but I enjoyed it being a teenager and I don't see why adults shouldn't.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Looking For Alaska by John Green

As earlier mentioned, I anticipate that this will be the only book for a little while that is not a classic. Anyway, back to the review!

For me, this was one of those books that you reach the final pages of, and you close the book after reading the final words, but before you can move on with your life, you have to sit for a little while and think. This book made me think and question and I appreciate that, and put a proportion of my gratitude on John Green's beautiful writing. It almost has a poetic style with a sort of fluency and grace. At points in the story where the main character was not exactly in a graceful, beautiful mood though, it reflected in the writing, becoming harsh or jumpy. It was a great way of taking the story deeper.

I seem to have a thing with not liking the endings of books. The ending for Looking For Alaska was, in my mind, unsatisfactory. It had the promise to deliver, but fell short for me. It seemed to brush some things under the carpet with a little too much haste and then round it off with a half amazing, half disappointing finish.

The characters, even most of the secondary ones, are developed and have backgrounds, although I was hoping for more on this front occasionally.

This book has to be one of my favourites (which means I don't have too much to say), and I recommend it.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

A Study In Scarlett, The Sign of Four (Sherlock Holmes) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Okay, so this isn't really in tone with all of the young adult fantasy/sci-fi romance I've usually been reading, but I freaking love BBC's Sherlock, so I figured I'd better try out the original canonical source.
I found them hard to read at first. I already knew the basic story lines and it wasn't that they were hard to follow, it's just the same problem I have with all the old classics: the language and structure are unfamiliar and make for very heavy reading. They took me longer to get through than I expected, and I spent a while looking things up in dictionaries. Never the less, I always find these books wonderful once I've got past my brain crying out for me to read something easier, and this was not an exception.

I love Sherlock Holmes. As a character, he is fascinating, and there are certain quotes and actions I have picked up that I really love and value. 

In terms of storylines for these two books, I'm not really sure where I stand. Quite understandably, the beginning of 'A Study In Scarlett' was mainly introductory, but I can cope with that and enjoyed how it was done. I was a little confused by how the actual story seemed to jump around and got very disorientated, but it all worked out and I had one of those moments when it links up and you have to stop and go "Oohhhhh" out loud (I was on a bus, I got weird looks). I did not find A Sign of Four quite as interesting, but it was a good read none the less.

These books are truly good for anyone who wishes to stimulate their brain and read something that you can engage with and think for. They are difficult though, although not as hard to get through as other classics I read. I do intend to continue with the series.

Note - Aside from the next review I will be doing (Looking for Alaska by John Green) expect a good deal more classics coming your way. I'm part way through Little Women and have to read Wuthering Heights for school, as well as a little list of others I wrote up, just to inform you in advance. Do expect a lot of reviews though, as the summer holiday is coming and I'll have six glorious weeks of never truly having to leave the house, and plan to use all those hours locked up inside out of the British summer sunshine reading)