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) 

Friday, 8 June 2012

Slated by Teri Terry

This book was going great until the disappointing ending.

To be honest, that's basically it in a nutshell, but I'll elaborate.

I had hope for this book. As with the last book I read (please see my review for 'Forgotten') the main idea had promise: in the future, young criminals had their minds wiped so they could start again. Unlike 'Forgotten', however, this book started to deliver. I enjoyed it. The author introduced a romance, but it didn't seen that important for ages (it slowly became more prominent but it was relevant to the story line). I was looking forward to reading on.

I thought that at points, it was a bit predictable, but I'd probably moan if everything happened too suddenly, so I won't complain about that too much.

The end was disappointing though, because it just didn't seem to end. I presume that there is a sequel, and that Terry was trying to force her readers to continue. Literally, a giant plot twist, complete with new character and huge epiphanies, was introduced on the closing few pages. I was quite excited until I realised how little of the book there was left. It just sort of stopped, and I was disappointed.

The lack of a proper ending was a nasty scar on what I thought was an enjoyable book. A good read, but expect to be left unsatisfied.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Forgotten by Cat Patrick

I hate to say it, but I did not like this book. The main character, London Lane, had a rare condition in which every morning at 4.33 am, her mind resets and she can remember nothing of the past twenty four hours. She can, however, remember her future (ignoring the fact that the solutions to this giant problem that London used were unrealistic, and boiling down to it the whole idea is unrealistic in that it would be very hard to live a normal life like that, you've got to admit it sounds kind of interesting). There was a lot of potential here, and the book started well, despite giving the reader little introduction to what was happening to London. I was interested in what the author was going to do with such an interesting character. Unfortunately, she didn't do anything as brilliant as I'd hoped. She made a romance. This was fine at first. It was sweet and fluffy and borderline interesting. I figured it would be a story line that was just introducing us to the way London worked, soon to back off to allow for a more exciting story line. It did this eventually, but about 75% of the book was wasted on romance by the time it did. It was an awful waste. The second story line (I won't give anything away) could have been very interesting. But instead, it was rushed, unexplained and unfinished. It was sort of a "Oh yes, and this happens, but I don't have enough book time left so I'll squish it in at the end". Also, it didn't really...end. Just as it got most interesting, the book finished, and we were suddenly in an epilogue. I assumed that the story lines would be resolved there, which I was willing to grudgingly accept, but alas, no such luck. The short epilogue quickly brushed very important things aside and went back to how lovely the romance was however many years on. Fin. There were a lot of other things left unresolved as well. For example, a collection of things that London 'remembers' are going to happen that never do, or conflicts suddenly becoming resolved in bizarre ways. I didn't like this book, though from reading online reviews I see that lots of young adult fiction readers disagree. I suppose if you like romance and/or don't have a lot of expectations, maybe it could be a good book. I don't know, it wasn't for me, and I wouldn't recommend it.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Jane Austen Stole My Boyfriend by Cora Harrison

This book is the sequel to Jane Austen Is My Best Friend, but I think it can cope fairly well as a stand-alone.

The book is set in the 1700s, following the life of a young Jane Austen via the journal of her best friend Jenny Cooper. It was undeniably cute, and I liked the period aspect. It was fun and pretty and enjoyable. Romantic, even.

This book I think was a bit young for me. Of course there were conflicts but some seemed trivial and never came to any sort of climax. For example, a number of people received anonymous letters being mean about Jane, but this story was essentially brushed under the carpet when Jane stated she knew who they were from. After that, there was no word of this.
Not to mention the terribly rushed ending. I must admit I was a bit surprised when a potential plot changer was introduced in the closing few pages of the book. Within about two pages though, the whole thing was resolved in time for the happy ending.
Maybe I'm just too old for the book. I brought it at the beginning of last summer when had I book token for special school contribution or something, and thought the pretty hardback would look nice when presented. I had also read the first book, and recognized the author, so thought I might as well try it. My reading tastes have just changed.

Basically, it wasn't strong enough for me, as someone who likes angst. That doesn't mean to say though, that it was a bad book. If you like romance and sweetness, read it.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Matched by Ally Condie

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. I read it because a website recommended it to me as a book to read after The Hunger Games, and despite the fact that there are follow ups (or maybe just one) I have only read the first.

I won't say I didn't like it, because I did. There were parts that were very nice to read, sweet and light hearted (particularly after The Hunger Games) and I generally love the futuristic civilization sub category of fiction anyway. What I was particularly fond of was how the ideas of the new regime in Matched made sense - I could envision the events actually taking place in accordance with today's situation.

I felt that parts of the story line, notably some points near the beginning, seemed a little forced. They didn't flow quite right, or didn't feel natural. I also feel that a bit more detail about the characters (the main character, Cassia, included) would have given the book a whole lot more meaning. To me, the most meaningful character was Ky, a mysterious and increasingly interesting boy. I would have connected more with Cassia, as well as some of the other main characters if I knew more than what Condie told me.

I'm torn. The book was good, and I enjoyed reading it. But I still haven't made up my mind whether or not to read the sequel.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

The (Unofficial) Hunger Games Companion by Lois Gresh

Okay, I know that this isn't a stand alone book, but it links in with my last review, and I have some opinions.

Basically, this book (by Lois H. Gresh) offers an outside opinion to the book series 'The Hunger  Games'. It was not what I was expecting, but I managed with that. To be honest, the book is basically one big essay. This isn't the problem, since I didn't mind the layout or formality. I also didn't mind how opinionated it was, despite disagreeing with some of them. Well, actually I did mind in some respects. Having read the book, I have to wonder how well Gresh understood the original novels: she frequently refers to Katniss as a "sweet", "innocent" young girl, which for anyone who has read the Hunger Games, seems like a very misguided opinion. Gresh seems to have read Katniss as a flawless, tragic yet friendly teenager who wouldn't hurt a fly: obviously the fact that Katniss broke the law daily, had a short temper and didn't like making friends made no impact on Gresh. Also, considering the point of the 'Companion' was to offer opinion, it seems silly that whenever Gresh pointed out a mistake or something that was not logical, she would rush to assure that reader that the novels were still amazing and that readers can ignore any mistake because of the beautiful characters and interesting plot.

The 'Companion' isn't bad. It just wasn't all that amazing. It was a real mixture of interesting insights and extras, combined with a whole load of over admiration and naive opinions. If I were you, I wouldn't bother.

Friday, 6 April 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

I think it speaks for itself when I say I cleared the whole series in a weekend. I'd heard about them sometime last year but decided to read them when I had nothing else to read and regretted not doing so earlier. I love this type of book in general (the sort of sci-fi future books) and I got really sucked into the plot. I thought they were well written and very interesting.

I didn't mind the romance element, especially since it wasn't the main focus of the plot but made it a little more light hearted and even Katniss seemed to forget about the 'love triangle' a lot of time and focus on the more interesting story of the Games. One of the things I loved about this series is how Katniss seems far more interested in the difficult political situation and fiercely protecting her family than the attention she receives from boys. However, I understand that at some points it was essential, and there were some romantic scenes I really did like.

There were points that I disliked. Firstly, Katniss isn't very likeable, but I don't think she needed to be. In fact I think it was important that she wasn't flawless.

I would recommend these books. Aside from all the hype surrounding The Hunger Games right now thanks to the movie version, I genuinely found these books enthralling. But don't read them if you're looking for something light hearted and fun. These books include some terribly emotional scenes, a whole lot of gruesome deaths and a lot of difficult topics. I cried so much.