About Me

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19 years old from the UK, I have always loved a good book and a cup of tea, and am often asked to recommend books I have loved, thus created this blog in order to share my thoughts with whoever is interested. Please share recommendations if you wish!

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

A Sudden Light - Garth Stein

As I have mentioned many a time on this blog I ADORE a mystery; I just can’t put them down! I have to say I was very surprised when this review request dropped into my inbox as Stein’s previous book ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ is one of my all-time favourite books and the description of this book was so far from ‘The Art of’. I couldn’t resist saying yes.

I was not left at all disappointed; in fact I was astounded at how well Steins style changes in this book compared to ‘The Art of’- equally good, but very different; a artful skill for a writer to achieve in itself. This is a scary book; genuinely I was very frightened when reading ‘A Sudden Light’- something that is so rare to find in a book and something that I love to discover.

The characters are fantastic- Grandpa Samuel is a particular favourite of mine, and his story line is brilliant. I loved the principal character Trevor; he was portrayed in a really realistic and genuine way- which is a theme that runs through the whole book. The characters actions and thoughts were all realistic and surprising; little twists and turns really added interesting depth to the story. In addition; the backstory and history, which is all intertwined brilliantly into the main story, is unique and totally engaging. Traditionally with stories like this (ones that are split into past and present) I tend to favour one side and find it a chore to read the other, however with ‘A Sudden Light’ I was very much interested in both sides. The history of this family, the Riddell family which the story is based around, is fascinating and its clear from the reading this book that Stein really did his research when it comes to the real life history of this area of the world- adding further to its realistic feel.

I love the ideas and themes portrayed in this book; ranging from the taboo to the thought provoking. So much is going on but it is all wound together beautifully. A small, but important, point is that of how the added ‘fear/scare’ elements heighten your imagination which helps to bring the story to life even more- you can hear the music; smell the trees- and it is balanced perfectly.

My only real criticism is that some elements of the story are left still, a little, unravelled at the end. I can get past this however as it allows you to work out your own answers; although that being said there are a couple of questions I still have swimming in my mind. I may have to read it again in the future to see if I can shed some light on them.

I have to admit this is a very adult book, not for kids or YA but I really enjoyed it. A mystery in the best sense, but with elements of the supernatural which added real character to the story, this is a lovely read. I got a real warm fuzzy feeling whilst reading it, possibly because it reminded me of what I used to love reading when I was a little younger and in love with the idea of period history, possibly because I remembered how much I love this authors writing.  

Note: This book was sent to me to review. This is no way alters or affects my opinion of the book and I only review books sent to me that I genuinely would have considered
purchasing for myself.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

The Kingmaker's Daughter- Philippa Gregory

I have adored the work of Philippa Gregory for many years, in particular The Cousins' War series and the Tudor Court Novels. This book was by no means a disappointment at all, and as part of the Cousins' War series, lived up to expectations impeccably.

What I love about this series in particular, and Gregory's writing style in itself, is how she is able to mould the same characters and general story into so many different perspectives so brilliantly. Each time I pick up a different book, from the perspective of a different character, I am instantly drawn into their side of the story and how their part played out and was important to how these wars and rivalry shaped England in this period. I am a firm believer that most other writers that try to recreate this period of history as Gregory does would not achieve half as well written a series as this one. That being said, I am a little biased as I adore this period of history within its own right.

The Kingmaker's Daughter is not the best in the series, although that doesn't make it a bad book, and neither is it the worst. The story is captured and brought to life wonderfully; the shine and beauty of this time in England's history- from the royal court to the clothes and food- is so beautifully written that it literally jumps of the page and into your imagination. This is also true for the vast array of characters within the series, and in particular this book; each one (no matter how small a part) sparkles and captivates- I am certain this is due to the research undertaken by Gregory on the real life people that the characters are based on.

If you are a fan of historical fiction (or of the BBC 'White Queen' series based on this series of books) then this would be a definite read for you, although it would surprise me if you were a fan of historical fiction and not read any Phillipa Gregory. Although this is probably the least popular of the series, it is definitely worth the read, not only because it is brilliant as a stand alone book, but also because it completes the final puzzle piece of the series perfectly.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Still Alice- Lisa Genova

Many months ago our family's cousins from Canada came to the UK to visit; amongst a wide range of topics we discussed, I mentioned both my love of reading and Science- this fuelled the recommendation of this book. I would initially steer away from authors who write about Science subjects as I'm often left disappointed by a lack of depth however Lisa Genova happens to have a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard university; useful for someone who is writing a book about Alzheimers disease.

This book is full of detail and depth of knowledge, and is almost exactly what I look for in a science related novel; and this is purely down to the authors background and the background research she must have undertaken to write the book. The story follows the life of Alice, a university professor at Harvard university, a distinguished scientist and researcher as well as an outstanding teacher- however we follow her story as she is diagnosed with early on set alzheimers disease when she is just in her fifties. What I like about this book is it is incredibly realistic- the struggles Alice and her family face happen to hundreds if not thousands of people every day and the book highlights these issues perfectly.

For example, the author touches of genetic inheritance and genetic screening/testing and the impact this can have on children, grandchildren and future generations.I have a personal interest in genetic testing and found the authors interpretation and handling of the subject wonderful- full of insight and tactfully written but still maintaining the hardship of making, and living, with these decisions. In addition we have the real life impact on the husbands/wives or partners of people with alzheimers; completely without sugar coating or skimming around the surface. The reader sees an honest look at a sufferers life (and the lives of the family of the sufferer).

The style of writing for this book is somewhat clinical, well thought out and scientific- the perfect narrative voice for Alice; however the writing style does develop through the book as what is most important to Alice changes. The inner thoughts of Alice, particularly when the disease is really progressing into later stages, are beautiful and though provoking. For anyone, like me, who has had a friend or relative who has or is suffering with alzheimers this is a fresh, heartbreaking and interesting perspective of the disease.

My only criticism of the book is that I feel that this front cover would allow this book just to blend into the background of the other 'real life' novels that are swamping the shelves at the moment- which is a shame because this book is right ahead of the crowd. Without a doubt this is one of the best science based novels I have ever read and I have every intention of picking up more of Lisa Genova's books. Watch this space.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

The Bone Clocks- David Mitchell

I will admit, rather shamefully, that this is the first David Mitchell novel that I have read and I’m thoroughly annoyed with myself that I’ve waited this long. I will hold my hands up and admit that I was drawn to this book due to the huge press/media campaign that Mitchells publishers/promoters threw at the world- it felt like I couldn’t turn a page in a newspaper without the advertisement glaring back or turn on the TV without an interview with him popping up; well let’s face it, they did their jobs. I bought it (in hardback none the less). 

Mitchell is a fantastic writer; a classic ‘unique’ author- full of long descriptive words and twisting detailed narrative. *Sigh* they don’t make ‘em like that anymore. That being said, you really need to concentrate whilst reading this book as it is very easy to get lost and this is definitely not a skim readable book- something I learnt the hard way. However, if you stay on your toes this is such a gripping read, and as I said before, the writing style is truly incredible.
My favourite thing about this book is the way the story is played out- it begins in 1985 and centres on the main character Holly Sykes, and although she is in every chapter/section of the book, the narrative voice is not always hers. We flick from person to person, glimpsing key characters from previous sections and meeting new ones. However, unlike many books of this style, the story is still concise and logical as Holly runs all the way through. I also love (and this is a slight spoiler) that Holly is the first and last narrative voice- this really rounds of the story. In addition; this book is FULL of beautiful quotes for example “Some magic is normality you’re not yet used to”- I think I like this quote so much is because, although it talks mainly of an event occurring in the story, it also hints at the future of Holly’s life and how she will adapt and change to accommodate new things.

As I said earlier, you need to keep your wits about you whilst reading this book and some of the concepts are really imaginative and require thinking about- this is a book for adults and a little beyond YA readers I fear (although that’s only because I think some sections may be a little boring for younger readers, by all means give it a go and prove me wrong). My only other real criticism is that I grew fond of, and developed an interest, in characters that were quickly taken away from me, due to the nature of the book. Although, I am convinced this was a literary technique used to emphasise the changing nature of life and how people come in and out of it: but I digress.
An excellent, excellent book and I would highly recommend- full of action and new interesting ideas and plots, a definite to read.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

The Shock of The Fall - Nathan Filer

This is book is extermly unique; which I imagine is not something that others who have read this may think. If you have ever read 'A curious case of the dog in the nighttime' then you will find some parralels here, and if you enjoyed the Curious Case then this book is definatly a must read for you.

The reason I say it is unique is because you truly get a proper insight into what it feels like to suffer from a mental health condition. Not that you don't get that from Curious case, but this story leaves you bewildered, lost and confused- allowing the reader to truly appreciate how living with conditions such as the one that the main character suffers from, actually feels like. Due to the nature of the illness in Curious Case the story is much more straight forward than that in The Shock of The fall and offers an honestly different view of mental health illnesses.

The writing style of the author really lends itself to the storyline, and in places the narrative is truly wonderful and vivid. In addition to this the way this book is written and printed really breaks up the story so you don't have to fight to understand it as much as if it was written in a traditional straight forward manner. Obviously this style also lends itself perfectly to the narrative voice of the main character, Matt, but still evolves with Matt as he gets older, something most authors would have failed to adapt to.

Matt is a stunning character in himself- beautifully portrayed and you can't help but let your heart break for him. His journey is truly interesting and the detail of his personality is vital for the story. I also adored the characters of Matt's parents who take on a background evolution through the book that is also gripping to read and something I havn't really experienced on this scale to much in books before. Again the writing style lends itself to waves and waves of detail which, as I'm sure has become apparent if you keep up to date with this blog, is something I love in books.

I have no real complaints about The Shock of the Fall, a side from I imagine some readers may not enjoy the jumpimg about of the time frame, which I admit does take a little while to get used to, but is not something that really impares the reading of the book. This book is outstanding, a true gem and so worth the read- for all ages (however teenagers please keep in mind that this is not young adult).

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Before I go to Sleep - SJ Watson

This book was recommended to me by a friend a couple of weeks ago and to be honest with you I didn't completely understand the concept when she explained it to me. I ruled the story off as stupid and unrealistic as the main thread of the plot involves the main character forgetting the majority of her life when she falls asleep- awaking in the morning with no recollection of her husband or their life. Although I still argue over the realisticness of this condition (correct me if anyone knows something about it that I don't) this is a fantastic book none the less. This will be a short review from me I imagine because its hard not to give away the story- but trust me, this should go right to the top of your reading list.

After the first chapter or so, the plot and concept of the book are gripping and incredibly interesting. The story is a mystery/crime and there are some pretty incredible plot twists that heighten the book to a whole new level- this is achieved through great detail and attention to accuracy. 

The characters are caught incredibly well in this book, especially the frustrations and thoughts of the main character Christine. I like to think that Christine is so named as a parallel to The Phantom of the Opera as I can see some similarities but this is most likely just my imagination. The way Christine's life is written is brilliant- such an original writing style and plot that could so easily be overly confusing and difficult but is portrayed beautifully without any real struggles of difficulty. 

This is a definite read for all ages, however please bare in mind some sexual references, and especially for those who love a mystery as this book really does keep you guessing till the very last pages. I have to say that although I have a copy that was released after the film I haven't seen the film or really intend to see it- if you read the book I think readers will understand my scepticism over how an earth it could be converted to film and still keep the magic and detail of the plot. 

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The Old Soul's Coven; Emily's Haven - Carla Michelle Hamilton

I won't beat about the bush here; I had high hopes that this book would be brilliant and I left disappointed. In theory this book could be a really great young teen fiction book (and I stress young) if a) the market wasn't already overflowing with this genre of book (vampires/witches/fantasy) and if b) it had a bit of tweaking and adjustment.

Let me start with the plot. It's a typical vampire/witch/fighting/love triangle type story which is great if you really try to break out of the 'twilight box', and I have to say this story really does try, but all together everything moved too fast with little explanation or detail. The principal character, Emily, is thrust into this new world within the first few pages but I felt, personally, that her response to new circumstances was unrealistic- within a few chapters she goes from ordinary girl on the street to leader of a coven and fighting bad guys. The story begins to get more and more complicated and bizarre and this strange love triangle (?) forms- all Emily seems to do is fall in love and have sex with anyone who comes along.

There are some really interesting and original ideas in the story line but they aren't explored in enough detail. For example the society of the vampires and witches and hierarchy between the covens as well as some 'flashbacks' to past lives that I would have loved to have been explained further. That being said these issues could all be explained further in the following books in the series so it might be worth sticking it out till the end. In addition there were a couple of really great plot twists that elevated the story away from similar books in this genre.

I really wanted to like the characters but due to the erratic story and lack of detail its difficult  to form a connection with them; in addition there are a lot of people in this book which also adds to the confusion of the story- and ohh yes they all are in and out of relationships with everyone and anyone. I did like the character Luke, but as a reader I was left a bit bewildered when he was introduced as the bad guy but within a couple of chapters it was as if he had never done anything wrong.

If this book was tweaked a little it could be a really good young teen fiction story with a real possibility for a great series but the erratic nature of the story and the lack of detail spoilt the book for me. I would possibly read the second book in the series because I imagine a lot of the problems with this first book would have been ironed out. If you're a younger reader (I'm thinking 12/13+ with a mature mind-this girl has a lot of sex) then I think you might enjoy this, especially if you're really into the Vampire/witch saga genre.

Note: This book was sent to me to review. This is no way alters or affects my opinion of the book and I only review books sent to me that I genuinely would have considered
purchasing for myself.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

The Abortionist's Daughter - Elisa DeCarlo

When the email about this book dropped into my inbox my attention was immediately hooked- the title, the setting, the description. It sounded right up my street, but I have to admit I was left, not exactly disappointed, but it wasn't entirely what I was expecting.

I won't tell a lie- I despised the main character, Melanie, from the first chapter; she is rude, vain, childish and quiet frankly annoying. Although I am certain this is the exact intention of the author (and something that develops and changes towards the end of the book) this made the first half of the book a little difficult to read. I found her actions absurd and stupid which made it difficult for me to enjoy the plot of the story. Furthermore, because of Mel's actions the first half of the book was predictable and a little flat.

That being said, the second half of the book I really enjoyed. It was fun to read about how Mel's life develops; the story is set in 1916 and the second half centres around the hustle and bustle of Broadway at this time- a personal interest of mine. The glitz and glamour of the time is caught brilliantly and showcased in a way that I haven't seen before, as well as capturing the essence of working in theatre spectacularly.

Another thing that is touched upon well is the attitude towards women in this period- in particular the rights to a women's own body. More than once Mel refers to being 'owned' by a man just because they have had sex- a stark contrast to attitudes in our modern world, almost. It's interesting to read about a time that I see as being glamorous and sophisticated where women stood up for themselves and demanded the vote- when in actual fact certain elements of women's lives haven't changed at all. The topic of the legality of abortions is discussed often in the book and a particular quote really struck me- "The people who made laws were men, and men didn't get pregnant. They couldn't play God, they couldn't have babies but they could force women to have babies." How true? Still today it is men who have the real power with so few women in government and still with few women actually using their vote? It's almost as if nothing has changed. My only criticisms of this element of the book is that it was not developed into much more depth.

This book is not for everyone and I must stress that this is definitely 18 years+ and is not for the faint hearted, it contains some pretty graphic and upsetting scenes. However if you're a women, in particular if like me you're just about to set off into the world, this book will reawaken your thoughts about our society and women.

Note: This book was sent to me to review. This is no way alters or affects my opinion of the book and I only review books sent to me that I genuinely would have considered
purchasing for myself.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Elizabeth Is Missing- Emma Healey

I have never really appreciated what it is like to 'grow old', or even put that much thought towards the subject but I have to admit the reality of this book awakened a whole era I had dismissed as way off in my future (the foolishness of youth right?) This book captured old age in a way that I have never read before, or even seen in film.

The book depicts the life of Maud, narrated by herself in present day in which she is an old lady with a grown up daughter and grandchildren, as well as narrating past events from her childhood when her sister disappeared. The writing style is lovely, if not a little sad due to the nature of Maud having memory difficulties which gradually get worse throughout the book, and refreshingly told through the eyes of someone (due to age/ ability) who is often overlooked as narrator. From the very first page the reader is struck by how obviously Maud's opinions and voice are over looked and ignored and dismissed as foolish/irrelevant due to her condition and age- its shocking to see how frustrated family, friends and carers get with her and yet she has no way of explaining how frustrated she is that she can't explain herself properly or simply forgets the thread of her thoughts. I made an active note to try and be more patient with my own family and others.

I also loved the parallels that are subtly drawn between the past and the present story lines- in particular the similarities between present day Maud as an elderly lady and the 'mad women' she remembers from her childhood; this is clever writing at its best. These similarities are so subtle they would be easily missed but they add so much depth to the book and I imagine if I re-read it in a few months I would be able to spot many more parallels. Another thing I love about the writing is the beautiful imagery created, in particular when characters are alone with their thoughts, and the complexity of the description elevates the story and characters to whole new level.

The story is cleverly crafted, if the tiniest bit slow, and because of Maud's memory issues you get a very unique but captivating crime mystery story although I think avid crime readers might be a little frustrated with the story and would probably guess the ending easily. That is not to say that crime fans should stay clear its just something to bear in mind- those that are new to crime would most likely find this a fantastic storyline. And yes part of the reason I bought the book was because it has a stunning hardback cover but life is too short to deny oneself beautiful books.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Skinny - Donna Cooner

I picked up this book at the Edinburgh International book festival a couple of weeks ago which I attended when I went up to Edinburgh for the fringe festival (please let me know if anyone is interested in seeing some sort of haul/ ramblings about the book festival!) - I spent a lot but it was an amazing festival and I will most likely be going again next year. Anyway, back to the point, I was drawn to this book simply because of the cover and because like so many girls, and boys, I have struggled with the way I look/ my size for a great number of years; and I thought 'hey with a title like that I'm probably going to relate to this one'.

I was not wrong.

The story depicts the life of Ever, a 302 pound (thats almost 22st I think my dear British folk) 15 year old girl, and her struggles with weight. I have to say the story quality left me ever so slightly disappointed, however the ideas and message were very interesting. Certain scenes blew me away with their accuracy to how I, and I'm sure thousands of others, feel during everyday situations and confidence and insecurities were addressed and highlighted brilliantly- in particular when it came to insecurities from people who may be deemed 'too pretty' to have confidence woes, something that I have never seen addressed in any sort of literature before or indeed given much attention too.

In addition to this, I was forced to reconsider my relationship with how I look- something that I will admit has always been hard for me- no one can make you feel worse than the changing room mirrors- and I adored the scenes where Ever addressed 'skinny' directly. This book has less to do with the characters themselves and more with our own attitudes towards ourselves.

I can't claim this is the best book I have ever read or that it has changed my life dramatically, but it did make me think; not only about myself but about the society as a whole. What concerns me the most about the story is that this girl is 15 years old and she hates herself so much, I was shocked 'surely no one that young feels that way!?'. But then I remember- was I not about 15 when I first started to wear make-up? 14 when I cried because I had been called ugly at school? I remember distinctly having concerns at 13 about love handles...

It shocks me that it was so important and necessary that a book like this was written to highlight how young children are when they start to become preoccupied with what others think about them and how big their thigh gap is, as well as confronting the increasing obesity epidemic that is taking a hold of the world. I would recommend this book to all those who have ever had any doubts about how they look or what others think about how they look- please don't expect some great classic but this is defiantly worth reading.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Colorworld - Rachel.E.Kelly

This book is pretty genius, like this is clever writing. Unique and gripping.

The only problem I had with the story is, dare I say it,  it is a little 'twilight', in my opinion. However what is different about this love story as opposed to the Bella/Edward scenario is that it is not based on lust; but love. That being said you can't really escape the clawing intensity of the relationships of the book, which mainly stems from the character of Gabe. Now I could understand why people wouldn't like Gabe as a character; he is unreal in a sense that no one in the real world actually behaves the way he does (declarations of love/ very forward ect ect) however I feel that the situation and setting of the story allows him to be believable in this context. In addition to this, and I might be completely alone in this, who wants to read about a guy just like every other man out there? Not me. I want to read about someone who isn't in the real life- its a lovely change! I know, I know- I'm a sucker for knight in shining armour. 

The storyline is solid, and surprisingly easy to follow as well, with fantastic development from all the most interesting and important characters. I also want to say that the characters are in no way flat here- oh no- they are as multidimensional and changing as real life people and I love that. Its refreshing to read a book that both transports me to a world that is completely unrealistic and imaginary but also makes me believe that these characters could be walking around my world anyway. 

Another thing that I liked about the book was that it doesn't hide the fact its part of a series, if you pick up this book its only a section of the story and it leads on brilliantly to further books which I fully intend to read. It generally irritates me no end when a book could 'stand alone' from a series- when I start a series I want the writing and story to be completely invested in itself right till the end and this first instalment in the series allows for that superbly. 

This book managed to shock me, although I do personally believe that that particular section could have been dragged out longer, it offered another level to the story that was completely unexpected and was really well written. If you enjoy the supernatural/sci-fi and even mystery this is a fantastic book to read and it seems to me the series can only get better from here. 

Note: This book was sent to me to review. This is no way alters or affects my opinion of the book and I only review books sent to me that I genuinely would have considered
purchasing for myself.

Monday, 28 July 2014

The Mine - John A. Heldt

I will be honest with you; time travel is not something I have ever really read about, I adore films and TV shows about time travel (don't get me started on Doctor Who), but I've never really stumbled upon a book concerning time travel that took my fancy. That was until I read the description of The Mine.

What I really love about the story, and writing style, is how clear the difference between  the year 2000 where Joel (the principal character) travels from, and the the year he travels to, 1941. The whole era is captured really well, in particular the changing face and perception of women. 1941 and the second world war was so vitally important to the development of women in society and this is really clear in the book, but subtly so the story still flows well.

I was gripped whilst reading this book, especially for the last 50 pages or so, because the time travel offers the reader the exclusive ability to glimpse the future before it happens. Despite this ability, you are still drawn in by twists and turns, as well as the story (mostly) not being diluted with 'fairytale' twists of fate that don't happen in real life. It allows, surprisingly, for a time travel book to be, almost, believable.

My only real criticism of the book is when Joel first realises he has travelled to 1941; he doesn't really seem at all concerned, just accepts it and moves on. I can't help but think my response would have been 'holy moly how an earth am I going to get home!? *insert dramatic scream*' (maybe not holy moly but you get the idea). That being said, he is aware of the need to get back and does make an attempt; I myself perhaps would have made more attempts but then again he is a clever chap and most likely realises his attempts need to be better timed.

Joel is an interesting character, not the typical tragic hero he first appears, because, to put it bluntly, he's selfish and a bit of an idiot. I love that. Too many books focus on creating a perfect male character and although Joel does lean that way, he still knowingly makes mistakes and suffers the consequences. I am also a sucker for a cowboy, for fear of spoilers I'm not going to explain that further, but I pretty massively digress.

This is a lovely book and one I would really recommend to any age, unfortunately it is only available as an ebook, but it will make you smile and is one of those books that will make you reflect a little on both our collective past, and your individual future.

Note: This book was sent to me to review. This is no way alters or affects my opinion of the book and I only review books sent to me that I genuinely would have considered
purchasing for myself.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Fools' Gold - Philippa Gregory

I have loved Philippa Gregory book for years now and absolutely adore the cousins' war series in particular, as I have said before I love historical fiction and I have a (geeky) love for the war of the roses. I assumed I would love her other books just as much.

I was not disappointed, but this book was defiantly not what I was expecting.

Firstly, it turns out this book is right in the middle of a series, the order of darkness series, something I didn't have a clue about when I started to read but quickly worked out after the first couple of chapters. Why did I not realise when I bought the book you ask? Because I borrowed it from my Nana and she didn't have a clue, she had just thought it was 'a bit of a funny book'. That all being said, it didn't effect the reading of the book much, granted some details would have been easier to grasp and the back story would have been improved, but I enjoyed it none the less.

Secondly, I foolishly assumed this would also be historical fiction. I was wrong. Although it is set in 1454, its not based around historical events, but still I really enjoyed it. The story was fun and quick, not difficult to follow, and the characters were likeable, if a little bland.

I say bland but really they weren't, I am just hard to please when it come to characters and I had high hopes for this book after I had enjoyed so many of her others. What I really mean is that the characters were a little 'samey' - you could plonk them into many other books and stories and they would have got along fine. I like characters that demand to be read; that fight to belong in the book they are in.

On the whole I enjoyed this book, nothing that spectacular but amusing and light hearted. I would say that if you are fond of Phillippa Gregory and her writing style ( I love her style of writing!) then it might be worth picking up the first book in the series and see how you get on, and would be really great I think for younger teen readers (beware reference to sex and drunkenness).

Monday, 21 July 2014

The Black Magician Trilogy- Trudi Canavan

I have loved this series for a number of years now, and love re-reading the final instalment- The High Lord- which happens to be my favourite. This is what I would describe as 'a good fantasy/magicy' book, not the mildness of Harry Potter (my opinion please don't eat me) but also not your full on dragons elves and cloaks/wands combo often found in fantasy books. It has a lovely balance between an accessible story with fantasy intertwined.

That being said, this series is a little too long. What I mean by that is not that three books in a series is too much, on the contrary, but that the whole series could have been written in two if not one book instead of the three. Some sections are a little boring and do drag the pace of the story a little and don't really bring that much to the development of the story, however this is not something you would notice until you had finished the series. I have been known to skip whole chapters that, really, do nothing for the story, and I'm assured by other reviews that I'm not alone in thinking this. The same goes for some characters, in my opinion, some are just unnecessary for the story. 

I must admit though, this is one of my favourite series, especially as I am a sucker for a strong character. I adore the character Akkarin, the high lord, (hence my love for the final book in the trilogy) and I think his development as a character is really interesting- the more you learn about him the more you like him. However, their is a definite shift in the character in the final book that, dare I say it, is odd and vastly changes the perceptions of the character which some readers may find annoying and unnatural. I personally don't mind but just a heads up. 

On the whole I do love this series, and I do reach for it do reread when it takes my fancy. I would say don't rush to get the whole series in one go, get your hands on the first book 'the Magicians Guild' and see how you go- if you don't enjoy it you most likely won't enjoy the rest of the series but keep in mind that the series does get better the further you get into it. 

Side Note: I adore the covers on my copies, I just think they are really well designed

Saturday, 19 July 2014

The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold

Firstly; please excuse the film version book cover.

I have been told to read this book for a number of years by a close friend, but managed to put it off and put it off until I rediscovered it an abandoned stack of books in my house. I guess I had been putting it off because I thought, after foolishly watching the film first, that it really wouldn't be my thing however with my efforts to expand my reading horizons I ventured in. I was not left disappointed.

Granted, this book is graphic; both in the physical sense and emotionally. Despite this, the graphicness is important and valuable to the story, offering a tragic contrast to the innocent mind and voice of Susie, the principal character and the voice of the book. Susie’s narration of events is stunning and perfectly portrayed however I feel that, personally, I would have struggled a little with the imagery and events if I had not seen the film prior to reading the book (controversial I know but it’s possible I'm alone on this one). 

What I love about this book is that it is an interesting and unique interpretation of teenage life and growing up and what is important about growing, as well as the way a family can adapt and change as time progresses. The unusual and detailed characters bring the story to life and offer such depth and to the story, as well as being interesting and likeable. My only real issue with the characterisation is how the characters on earth are much more detailed and interesting than the characters in 'heaven'- however it would be easy to argue that this is a stylistic technique.   

In addition, some scenes are a little far fetched, brilliantly written, but a little far fetched; which brings in an element of sci-fi. I would be really interested to hear others opinions on this (if you read the book it will become obvious which scene I'm talking about but for the sake of spoilers I don't want to go into too much detail) as I have heard mixed reviews and various differing opinions- some love it some just don't get it. 

Although this book is a little tricky its well worth the read, beautifully written and crafted, however maybe stay clear if you are maybe younger (say below 16? although I'm not one for being good at age recommendations). 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The Host - Stephenie Meyer

I have absolutely no shame in saying that I loved the twilight books, which I read a few years ago now, and after reading them I was desperate to read other books by Meyer and I was not disappointed by The Host. It was brilliant.

Now disclaimer, this is a sci-fi novel and involves aliens, space and all that jazz but it is a fantastic gateway book into the whole sci-fi world and would be brilliant for anyone that wants to try the genre without jumping straight into a star ship out of this world alien planetarium war.

Looking at the book it is a monster, really thick and a bit heavy, but trust me you do not feel it whilst reading the story. Its effectively a love story but with unconventional twists and turns (thank you sci-fi) and not one that will leave you thinking 'hey haven't I read that before?' like so many romance stories do now a days. Unusual, unconventional and leaving you firmly divided in yourself as to what you want to happen as the story progresses.

Its easy to assume that this book would be terrible because of the twilight stigma that surrounds it, (side note: the twilight books are REALLY GOOD, granted the films are a bit rubbish but give the books a try!) but I love Stephenie Meyer's writing style and she crafts a beautiful book out of a story that is at great risk of being wildly confusing. If twilight was written for a younger teenage girl audience, this is seemingly more grown up and eloquent young adult fiction and would be suited to teenagers and adults a like. I certainly read it for the first time relatively young and have re-read it as an 18 year old (as well as lending it to older family and friends) and enjoyed it just as much.

Like so many book adaptations, the film does not do the book justice (granted I do also love the film) and its so worth picking up the book if you like young adult fiction, romance or even just want to try sci-fi; its a great story and really gripping, full of twists and very original ideas, settings and characters and is totally relevant for todays world.

Stoner - John Williams

I bought this book in the hopes of getting myself out of the book rut of fantasy and 'modern real life' that I had become accustomed too, and to be completely honest with you I achieved this. What drew me to this book in particular was the quote on the cover of the book that read

"The greatest novel you've never read"- Sunday Times
Now I don't know how true that was for me, granted it was good, but I was left a little disappointed. The book is written in order to record 'unrecorded history' or rather the life of an average man and to 'reclaim the significance of an individual life'- something that I think is achieved brilliantly.
However at the end of the day following the life of an average man is, not boring, but can leave you feeling a little disappointed at the end of the book; you constantly expect more which is not delivered. This, in my opinion, is the point of the novel. Yes, Stoner does not achieve absolute greatness or changes the world dramatically, but it teaches us that sometimes the small human victories are just as important. I think if you are looking for something that is thought provoking you will enjoy this book, but maybe don't expect the 'greatest novel' claims on the cover.
At the time of buying the book, I didn't realise that it wasn't a modern novel (you would think that the bold print 'vintage' on the cover would have clued me in but you would be mistaken), in fact it was first published in the UK in 1973 and the author himself was born in 1922, something that you would not be able to tell from reading the story but explains a lot after reading. Again, if you are looking for something that isn't necessarily 'modern' but is an accurate reflection on the past this could be an interesting read for you, and not one you would find in the history books.
The writing style is lovely, and beautifully fitting for the development of the character and the story, as well as being classically crisp and clear.
I enjoyed this book, not as much as I had hoped I would, but it is a lovely story, simple straight forward and a telling account of an individual life.

Change Of Heart- Jodi Picoult

I was once told that, when applying for uni/jobs ect, that mentioning that I loved Jodi Picoult novels is a huge no no and is considered a foolish error to talk about.

To this day I have not one single clue why because, personally, I feel she is a brilliant author.

I have read Change of Heart on multiple occasions and it has to be one of my favourite novels that she has written, not only for the fantastic and interesting story, but due to the complex issues faced in the book. I love a moral dilemma just as much as a mystery. The stigma surrounding the death penalty is one that is discussed all over the world and this story brings the key issues to the fore front, as well as painting an interesting light on how it must feel to be on death row, without actually voicing the thoughts of someone on death row; and there lies my main issue with the book.

Those familiar with Picoult's writing style will be aware of how she splits the story into different chapters 'written' by different characters, and despite this book revolving around 'Shay', a criminal on death row, his voice is never heard. I understand that this is possibly explained by the story (Shay has difficulties with communication as well as not classically listened too by officials) I thought it was a shame that he didn't have a chapter so we could hear his real story. However, I'm convinced this was an author choice and does add to the interest of the story.

What strikes me as the most interesting part of the story are the themes of religion, and what place religion holds in the modern world. The ideas put forward, as well as new concepts and thoughts I had not considered before, are gripping and its in these sections that the author's real talent shines; her utter dedication to detail. Jodi Picoult really does her research when writing a new book and in Change Of Heart the unusual and widely unheard Gospel's, ideas and concept are truly interesting. In addition to this, the voice of 'Michael' ( a catholic priest) is really enlightening, especially through his internal conflict surrounding the definition of religion and how religion is interpreted by the world. In this sense, as well as the death penalty, the book is incredibly thought provoking and a fantastic read.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

The Fault In Our Stars- John Green

Warning: my opinion is somewhat controversial in regards to this book.

I wanted to write about this book before seeing the film so that my thoughts and views are not tarnished or altered by the way the book has been interpreted by film makers, and as I am seeing the film tonight (eekk) I thought I had better get a move on.

I have to admit I had HIGH expectations for The fault in our stars because at the time of purchase I was very much into 'youtube culture' and had heard hundreds of shining reviews and decelerations of how outstanding amazing and perfect it is. I was not left disappointed as much as somewhat unenthused at the end.

Don't get me wrong, it is a fantastic book, a lovely story and obviously the writing is beautiful; I have never read an author who is so quotable, however I feel like the 'hype' surrounding the book spoils it and is distracting. What started as a moving, beautiful and intelligently written book has turned into, well, something of a cult.

That being said, I recommend this book time and time again, not only is it an easy read (in the sense that you don't feel dragged along or tangle) but it strives to teach you a little about life itself and is an honest representation of many aspects of the lives of young people. Although I do think that the story itself does lean towards the teenage girl genre, the writing style and eloquence ellivate the book to another level, allowing it to be accessible to all ages (please bare in mind scenes of an 'over PG' nature).

I must comment on the title which I do think is utterly perfect, coming from Shakespeare's Julius Ceasar

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves'"

Personally, the title sums up the book perfectly. This a lovely book and more than well worth reading. 

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Night Circus- Erin Morgenstern

This book is totally enchanting in a way that no book has ever enchanted me before. Forget Harry Potter, forget Eragon, forget all magic based books you have read in the past because The Night Circus takes magic to a whole new, completely captivating, level. Morgenstern brings both the mystical circus, as well as the characters, alive with fantastic imagery and writing that teamed with such a well crafted and woven story engulfs the reader in a world that you can't help but fall in love with. The whole book is beautiful and elegant, if not a little confusing to get to grips with in the beginning, however I struggle to think of such wonderful story telling by an author in any such similar book. As I have mentioned before, I am a sucker for a mystery and although this is not sold as your traditional mystery, it slips into the bracket perfectly and is so full of twists and turns it is impossible to put down; terribly cliche I know but its true none the less. If you enjoy a mystery but are looking for something a bit unusual then this could be perfect for you. I am one of those people that becomes far too attached to characters in books and films (enter Sherlock, the Doctor, Akkarin) and I was pleasantly surprised to find another character to add to my ever growing list; Marco. I don't want to go into too much detail as this could give away some of the story but I love this character dearly and although he is a little cliche (think classic tragic hero), the way the story is portrayed allows him to develop as well as having many more interesting elements than just what he would seem on the surface. This is such a beautiful book and I urge everyone to read it as it truly is both unusual and dazzling.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

We were liars - E.Lockhart

This book is not entirely what I was expecting, but then again, I am not certain as to what exactly it was that I was expecting. None the less, it is an excellent book.

I was initially intrigued by a curious review I saw on youtube (by the excellent booksandquills) where she insisted upon the books greatness. Interested, I next went to amazon to read reviews and alas I did not even get that far but shortly bought the book after seeing the description.

"Lockhart has created a mystery with an ending most readers won't see coming, one so horrific it will prompt some to return immediately to page one to figure out how they missed it." 

I am a sucker for a tragic mystery. 

This description lived up to its claims brilliantly, and after I had read the last few words it was hard to believe I had not seen this mysterious ending coming; it had indeed been so clear the whole way through. It was so hooking that I read the entire thing in a day, granted it is only 225 pages, but it really did grip me. 

The writing style employed by Lockhart is initially a different, somewhat strange, style but one that is in my opinion perfectly fitting for the story and the narration of 'Cadence' (a teenage girl), and I would be interested to read some of her other books to see if they are written in a similar way. 

I was reminded a lot of King Lear throughout the book, and really enjoyed the touches of modern approach to all sorts of issues from family life to money and racism, which were addressed in a context that I had not experienced from a book before, all be a context that I imagine is not all together that uncommon. 

If you enjoy mystery this is an excellent read but do not expect too much action as I feel that, within the context of the story, action and to some extent too much detail is not what this story has or needed.