Month: January 2016

Book Review: The Fallen Star

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The Fallen Star by Jessica Sorensen (The Fallen Star #1) – eBook, 415 pages – Published September 11th 2011 by Createspace

I remember starting this book aaages ago, but I never got round to finishing it. This time I managed to read it all the way through!

I think the main thing that drew me to this book at the time was the cover. It looked pretty, weird, edgy… I was a pre-teen who was obsessed with all these kinds of things.

The Fallen Star is written from Gemma’s point of view, the teenage protagonist of the novel. She’s not like other teenagers; she doesn’t remember her mother, she spent a majority of her life completely unable to feel, and her irises are violet. She has no idea what any of it means – and refuses to ask her grandparents, her guardians, as they appear to hate her – and tries to make sense of the horrific nightmares that begin to haunt her at night.

Then suddenly a couple of new kids turn up. Alex appears to hate Gemma – and causes a strange, electric feel in her – and his sister Aislin is trying to get them to get along. But then Gemma is sucked into a strange vision, and everything gets a whole lot more serious.

Gemma discoveries the truth about her entire life; her mother and how she disappeared, why she’s so different, and even what happened to her memories and emotions. But there’s nothing she can do about it, as it’s up to her to save the entire planet.

This is really just a typical YA novel – cheesy almost-romances, a “unique” protagonist who’s responsible for the safety of the human race… Yeah, there’s a lot of books like this. It does have some good ideas in it – the Foreseers, the Death Walkers – but it just seems too cheesy to me. Gemma is such an impressionable character, who overreacts to everything that is said or done. I mean, she is a pretty accurate teenager at most times, in the way she thinks and feels about Alex. But she also tries too hard some times. In fact, all the characters do. They don’t seem natural in the way they talk or act, everything just feels so forced.

As for the writing… It’s pretty amereurish if I’m honest. There are pieces of missing punctuation, incorrect spelling and grammar, and the same words and phrases repeated where Sorensen apparently couldn’t find anything better to use.

This is generally an easy read, though it is rather painful at times. The plot’s okay… The characters leave something to desire however, especially Gemma. I just didn’t connect with her or feel for her at all. So I’m afraid I’m only going to give this book 2.5 stars, and I’m not sure I’ll be buying the rest of the series any time soon!

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Book Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here

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The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness – Hardback, 348 pages – Published August 27th 2015 by Walker Book Ltd

This is the second book I’ve read by Patrick Ness, the first being More Than This which I adored. So I was really looking forward to The Rest of Us Just Live Here, and I was not disappointed!

The theme of this novel was basically what if you’re not the Chosen OneAs in, what if you aren’t the one who slays the vampires, or exorcises all the demons? What if you don’t fall in love with a Goddess or an angel? What if you’re just a regular kid, like Mike?

At the start of each chapter, there’s a short summary of what’s happening in the “main story” – the indie kids fighting the Immortals, saving the world and that kinda thing. But that’s all we get of their story; the rest is dedicated to Mike and his friends and family, struggling to lead happy, normal lives.

Each character is so unique and realistic. This is the important bit. There are characters with OCD, alcoholic parents, eating disorders. All of them are so well developed and relatable (expect perhaps Jared, who happens to be 1/4 God of Cats). I just love how their lives are normal lives, and how that doesn’t mean they don’t get a book written about them. Okay, Henna and Mikey nearly die, Jared can heal people and they encounter blue-eyed creatures a few times, but for the most part they aren’t the heroes. They are just people.

I loved how you could compare the normal lives of the gang to what’s happening with the indie kids. You can see how certain things affect each group of people differently, and how everything changes what they do. Such as the ending with Finn #2, which decides Jared’s fate and alters the indie kids’ story completely.

The writing is sometimes a little simplistic, like the kind of thing you read when you’re a pre-teen or something. But it’s easy to read, and really does draw you in. I have a few other Ness books I’d like to read, and I really am loving his work so far.

As you may or may not know, I’m a sucker for books featuring mental health problems. Anxiety, OCD, anorexia… They need to be addressed! It’s great seeing how Mike and his sister get on with their lives despite the problems they’re facing, and how they get involved without being judged based on their issues. Like I said, this is a really honest book, which we really need! I’d say 4 stars for this; I love it, but it’s not quite in my favourites.

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Book Review: Wreck and Order

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review. I downloaded the book via NetGalley.

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Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore – Advanced Reader’s eBook – Expected publication: February 9th 2016 by Hogarth

I started this book nearly a month ago – a month! It definitely isn’t the kind of book I would usually go for, but hey, it’s good to try something new.

This is definitely an honest book. Elsie, having grown up on her father’s money, is trying to find happiness. She befriends Suriya in Sri Lanka, and even ties out the Buddhist monks’ way of life. But all she ever seems to think about is, quite honestly, sex. She connects everything that happens to her to some kind of sexual act or emotion achieved through a sexual relationship. Like I said, Wreck and Order is extremely honest. Perhaps a bit too honest at times.

Elsie is trying to find her place in the world. That is a great start for a book. But I just didn’t get into this – I wasn’t emotionally attached to Elsie at all, and I couldn’t really relate to her. I got more than a bit fed up of all the sexual references pretty early on.

It doesn’t even seem to be in chronological order. Okay, not all books are, but I just kept getting so lost in this! One minute she’s alone in Sri Lanka, the next she’s remembering her time with her kind-of-boyfriend, and then she’s comparing it all to her hellish time in Paris… I just could not keep up.

There was no real hook or plot in this novel either. Elsie goes here, she meets them, she does this. The end.

Speaking of the end, what is going on there?! I tried to turn to the next page repeatedly, not realising the book had even finished. A bit of a dead end in my opinion, rather disappointing.

I try not to say that I don’t like a book. I never stop reading part-way through. But I have struggled with both of these things with Wreck and Order. Perhaps it just isn’t my kind of novel. Perhaps it was a bit too sexual. Perhaps it just didn’t have a gripping storyline and lacked the development that readers love so much. I’m giving this 2.5 stars; the writing is very good in places, the idea is there, but it just doesn’t fit together quite right.

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Book Review: Mostly Harmless

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Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #5) – Paperback, 230 pages – Published September 1st 2009 by Pan Books

Mostly Harmless is the final book in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams. It was originally mean to consist of only three books, but ended up far longer.

In typical Hitchhiker fashion, the plot is a bit all over the place. Everything cleverly fits together, and everything that happens is so absurdly peculiar that you can’t help but laugh.

Some things in this book are a bit hard to follow, but the gist is generally pretty easy to catch. As there isn’t a single plot exactly, I’ll try to summarise some of the main happenings in the novel.

Okay, so Earth had been demolished, Trillian was gone, and Arthur was in love with Fenchurch. But Fenchurch disappeared – literally, disappeared – and Tricia McMillan was back on Earth. It turns out that aliens are rather fond of astronomy, and Earth sometimes appears on the probability timeline, and sometimes doesn’t. During one of these times, Arthur ends up on a strange planet named NowWhat in the place where Earth should be.

It’s thanks to the Whole Sort of General Mish Mash – which is a lot more complicated than we ever believed parallel universes to be. On his travels, Arthur visits a village of oracles and becomes the Sandwich Maker in a small settlement on a peculiar planet, supposedly ruled by Bob. Everything was going swimmingly for him, until his daughter – yes, Arthur’s daughter – turns up, followed by a peculiar parcel from Ford.

Meanwhile, Ford himself had discovered that the Vogons had taken over the Guide, and created a strange new sequel. He jumped out of a window twice, lost a very expensive shoe, and then lost his ship to Arthur’s daughter after she threw a sharp stone at him. Basically, things weren’t going quite so well for Ford Prefect.

All the little ideas in this book are great – original, exciting, funny. Everything that makes the series so popular. None of these books have a straight-forward storyline, and that’s sort of what makes them so unique. Of course, the sequels are rarely as good as the first book, and this is no exception. However, I do believe this book has more of an interesting, easy-to-read vibe going on than the previous one.

Again, there’s no romance in this (yay!) and absolutely everything is completely unexpected. The Vogons have returned, but we still haven’t had any sign of Zaphod, or even Marvin. Kind of disappointing, as Zaphod was a real fantastic character! For most of the book, I’d give 3.5 stars, but in the end it managed to work it’s way to 4.

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WWW Wednesdays

What am I currently reading?

I’m still reading Wreck and Order and The Fallen Star, but I’ve also started Mostly Harmless, The Complete Alice and Pride and Prejudice.

What did I finish reading recently?

Am I Normal Yet?The Amazing Book Is Not On FireSo Long, And Thanks For All The Fish and Macbeth.

What am I reading next?

Okay, so now the new year has begun and I’m deciding to try something a little different. Basically, I’m going to give you guys the choice of what I read and review next. Remember, if there are any particular books you want reviewed or would like to recommend, you can always contact me.

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Book Review: Macbeth

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Macbeth by William Shakespeare – Paperback, 128 pages – Published 2005 by Wordsworth Editions

So we’re studying extracts of this play in English at the moment, and I decided to read the whole thing through. I’m not going to write a proper review on it, as I’ll be writing an essay on the book soon for school and would just get too fed up of it!

I’m pretty sure everyone is aware of Shakespeare’s writing. He was, of course, a play-write, not intending for any of his stories to be simply read off a page. Macbeth (or “The Scottish Play”) is one of his most popular, powerful plays, with a famous superstition stemming from it.

The story follows Macbeth after he meets three witches – the Weyard Sisters – who predict that he will become a powerful man, and eventually king. His wife, Lady Macbeth, is desperate for him to achieve this power, and urges Macbeth to assassinate the current king. Macbeth becomes arrogant, and drunk on power. In the end, he loses himself to the crown.

Lady Macbeth is an intriguing character. She is willing to give up anything and everything for the position of queen, but when it finally happens, she is ridden with guilt. She spends her nights sleepwalking, trying to remove the blood of the king from her hands.

Macbeth himself is also rather interesting. We see him become more cocky as the Sisters tell him that he cannot die by the hand of any man who is of woman-born – because of this, he believes himself to be invincible. Of course, that isn’t quite the case.

Shakesperean writing isn’t the easiest to read. The language is old and hard to understand for many people, not to mention that William Shakespeare liked to make his own vocabulary up. But the general gist of the plot is easy enough to follow, and it is a rather powerful play. There are tons of movie adaptations, including one to be released next month. It’s a short book, but not a quick and easy read as it takes a bit of effort to decode the writing. So I’m going to have to say Macbeth gets 3.5 stars from me.

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Book Review: So Long, and Thanks For All the Fish

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So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish by Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy #4) – Paperback, 167 pages – Published October 1st 2009 by Pan Books

This is the fourth book in Douglas Adam’s infamous The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. As is always the case, the first couple of books are definitely the best, but I always have to read the whole series after I start!

So in this book, Arthur Dent returns to Earth alone – amazed to find that is hasn’t, in fact, been demolished. Here he find Fenchurch, a girl who found a piece of knowledge suddenly when the Earth was supposedly destroyed, only to lose it again soon after. In order to discover the truth of the situation, Fenchurch and Arthur go to the Asylum in California – a peculiar inside-out house belonging to John Watson (or Wonko the Sane) and his wife Arcane Jane.

All three people have an identical silvery glass bowl, engraved with a final message from the dolphins before they disappear.

Ford Prefect soon joins Arthur and Fenchurch, and together they all hitch a ride on a flying saucer belonging to a large robot, leaving planet Earth after discovering all their lizards are retired. They head to the mountains of Quentulus Quazgar, where God’s Final Message to His Creation stands, hoping this will help Fenchurch’s missing memory situation. While trekking across the Great Red Plain of Rars Ford and Arthur are reunited with a familiar old robot, who seems to have nothing better to do than complain about life…

This is really quite a short book, with only 167 pages including the epilogue. It also doesn’t have such a clear, exciting plot as the first three books. There is also a bit of romance in this novel (that takes place in the clouds above London), and I can’t say I’m particularly fond of this. I mean, I don’t mind it, but is it really relevant?

The details are still Douglas’s strong point in my opinion. Take Wonko the Sane, for example. His house is designed to be outside on the inside, as he believes the rest of the world has gone insane and that the whole planet is practically an asylum. Hence, the only escape is his home – Outside the Asylum.

Arthur and Ford, the main original characters, are still fantastic. Their pointless comments and conversations, their quirky personalities, their odd lives are all very prominent still. Ford returns to Earth with a terrible case of space-lag, making it hard for him to keep his train of thought. And Arthur… Well, life doesn’t tend to go to plan for him very often. He repeatedly meets the grumpy Rain God, and even loses Fenchurch’s phone number she’s written on the back of his raffle ticket. Poor Arthur.

I really do like this series, and I’m about to start reading the next book (Mostly Harmless) in a matter of minutes. The previous book, Life, the Universe and Everything, is where the series began to deteriorate. This book certainly isn’t as good as the first one, so I’m going to have to give it just 3.5 stars. Still a good book, but not up to the standards the series started with!

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Book Review: The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire

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The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire by Dan Howell and Phil Lester – Hardback, 224 pages – Published October 8th 2015 by Ebury Press

Two of my favourite things combined together: YouTube and reading!

The Amazing Book Is Not On Fire is just jam-packed with everything a fan could want. Stories, photos, illustrations, quizzes, trivia… There is so much going on!

Of course, the boys talk about their show on Radio 1, and all the opportunities that arose from the job – such as meeting One Direction. They also share their school experiences, their trip to Japan, and a rather unbelievable tale about what happened in Vegas…

As well as all their personal memories and journals, Dan and Phil talk about how they began their YouTube careers, and give advice to those wanting to go into the same profession. There’s even a handy generator for video ideas!

All out favourite characters are mentioned, with Jessica, Becky, Dil Howlter, Simon the shrimp and Phil’s lion having their own pages. Oh, and a double-page spread of Phil’s hamster-breeding experiences.

And yes, there is fan-fiction. Phil Lester’s tale, The Hand, features Harry Styles in a rather unexpected manner… And Dan’s The Urge is, unsurprisingly, rather strange and dark. They are surprisingly nice reads in themselves!

Everything sounds as if the boys are reading aloud to you, as they’ve managed to capture their own voices in text. It’s honestly just like watching one of their videos!

Here are some of the many visual pages in the book:

There are deep moments, weird moments, helpful moments, funny moments. I would definitely recommend that any fans of AmazingPhil and Danisnotonfire read this! I’m going to give it 4 stars, as I really enjoyed it!

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Book Review:Am I Normal Yet?

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Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne (Normal #1) – Paperback, 434 pages – Published August 1st 2015 by Usborne

Holly Bourne writes about two of my absolute favourite topics: feminism and mental health.

So Evie is a teenage girl, who desperately wants to be “normal”. She’s been diagnosed with Generalised Anxiety Disorder and OCD, and is trying so, so hard to prevent them from ruling her life anymore.

Evie combats a number of issues in this book, such as the stigma around mental health, and the misuse of diagnoses (eg. “I like things neat, I’m so OCD”). She’s such a real character, who makes mistakes and upsets people and keeps secrets. She shares her bad thoughts, her rituals and her worries with us, which makes this book so fantastically relatable for people with similar thoughts.

Like everyone else suffering with mental illnesses, Evie has a ton on her plate. Recovery, boy problems, friendship problems… And her desperation to just be normal for once, which leads her into a teenage guys bedroom and triggers a horrific relapse.

This doesn’t have a typical happy ending. Yes, things do get better at the end, but Evie doesn’t magically beat her illnesses or avoid a relapse altogether – because that’s just unrealistic. Mental health doesn’t work like that. Recovering from a mental illness is a rollercoaster, with about a thousand loops.

The girls – the Spinsters as they decide to call themselves – are all fabulous too. They talk about all the things that people don’t talk about enough, including periods and the difference between mental health care for males versus females. I think these are all such important topics, and are covered fantastically in this novel from a teenage girl’s viewpoint.

Overall, I think this is just such a wonderful, important book. For those of us who are struggling with mental health issues, it helps us to feel less alone, and lets us know that our problems are not uncommon. For other people, the more “normal” people, Am I Normal Yet? provides an accurate insight into the mind of someone who’s not having such a great time mentally. I really loved this book and all the topics it includes. A new favourite of mine, with 5 stars.

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