Monday, 30 November 2015

A Volunteer Nurse on the Western Front by Olive Dent

A Volunteer Nurse on the Western Front is a war memoir by Olive Dent, a British woman, who volunteered as a Nurse in France during World War One. I read this book for my university studies, while studying about war memoirs and their representation of World War One and the theme of disillusionment often shown in war memoirs. The book follows Olive Dent who wants to do something for her country to help with the war effort. Her only nursing experience at the time being with St Johns Ambulance, she is initially an outsider to the other trained nurses however quickly finds her place and has a very positive time as a volunteer nurse.

So.. as interesting as this topic is.. this book just did not do it for me. I think the way the book is viewed is really dependent on the time period it is read in. I think that if this was read in 1918 then it would be much more inspiring than to people during the twenty-first century. I say this because women helping with the war effort is not seen as strange or shocking now or how much women are capable isn't questioned. I think Olive Dent wrote this to show how much women meant to the war effort and especially how much morale they could bring to soldiers.

I have to say though.. I just found this book way too positive! The woman was happy about everything. She enjoyed every single day. She never complained. She had fun constantly. She loved spending time in a small tent surrounded by a war in France. But also she was incredibly patriotic. She was obsessed with her country. I just couldn't believe she wasn't at all unhappy throughout her two years in France. I mean, she definitely condensed her experience, but not a moment in this book did she seem unhappy! I just did not enjoy the book, it didn't feel real enough. I guess I prefer the representation of disillusionment in a novel or memoir.

It was pretty hard for me to get through this book in the end, it became pretty monotonous and I'm not going to lie, I was glad to have got to the end. Speaking of the end, it really wasn't that good... Olive Dent just left. That was it. No sadness no happiness. Just.. she went back home.

Overall I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars. I would not really recommend it unless you have a particular interest in gender during World War One, war memoirs or just really like reading a positive view of the war.

The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton

The Miniaturist follows the life of Petronella. A woman who has just moved to Amsterdam to live with her recent husband who she will only be meeting for the third time. Her husband buys her a present of a miniature of their house which she hires a local miniaturist to furnish. However, all is not what it seems with the family and the miniaturist seems to know everyones secrets...

I loved this. This is one of my favourite books ever. That's a bold statement. So when I looked on Goodreads I was surprised to see so many low ratings for the book! I enjoyed everything about this book. What really had me was that chapter at the beginning. Going back after finishing the book and seeing how Burton tied everything together from the start.

What really stood out was the research Burton did for this book. She initially based her book on the real Petronella Oortman who owned a dolls house. When reading this I could see how much research she did by the attention to detail. As well as this, she has a few parts at the back of the book to show her research and give the reader more information. As a historian, I guess I really like books which have loose historical backgrounds.

What exactly did I like about this book? I liked the story, I was intrigued, I needed to read more and find out what was going to happen. It drew me in. Many reviewers seemed to dislike the book because it's so unbelievable and the characters aren't relatable or believable. Hey guys guess what?! It's a book! What's the point in every book you read being believable or just like real life?

I really enjoyed the topic of sodomy. This is something I have studied during my time at university and found it interesting that Burton focused on a man who committed sodomy but hid it from the world. This is something that we couldn't comprehend today, hiding your real feelings because not hiding them would result in being charged with death.

Overall, I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars and would recommend to everyone.

Friday, 31 July 2015

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See is an historical fiction novel written by Anthony Doerr. This book is set during World War II. The two main characters are Marie-Laure, a young blind French girl whose father works in a museum before they have to leave their home because of the war and Werner, an orphan, living in Nazi Germany who goes away to a school to attempt to pursue his love of fixing devices. And a stone which holds special powers...

I'm so split about this book. One part of me really, really loved the poetry feel of it all and the metaphors used and I can't even explain.. the language was just really beautiful. The other part was disappointed. It dragged on. I didn't think much was happening. I felt Doerr spent too much time building up and setting the scene when the best part of the book was the last one hundred to two hundred pages.

Then there is the format of the book. I really liked the short chapters giving little insights into the main characters lives. I just couldn't stand the time jumping. It drove me crazy. I got confused. I think it doesn't help that I had some time away from the book and didn't read it in long sittings but that's not how I read. I'm just gonna have to face it.. I like books in chronological order. I'm probably going to miss out on a load of great books that aren't chronological but hey we all have our preferences. I do really love books which have two or three different main characters and a short section of their story in a chapter and switching between the main characters but unfortunately for me, I think the negatives outweighed the positives for me.

The last 200 hundred-ish pages of this book were great. I loved them. Things were happening. I was desperate for Marie-Laure and Werner to meet. I was really rooting for them both. I wanted Werner to "win", he had to come out of the other side and well Marie-Laure was just admirable throughout for no reason in particular. I just liked her. I really enjoyed the way the book turned out, it may not have been happy but I liked that. I don't want to add any spoilers but some people did not make it and I was sad but it didn't ruin the book for me because I did like the end.

I'm unsure whether I would recommend this book to anyone. I generously gave the book 4 stars out of 5 but maybe it's more 3 and a half.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Title: Insurgent
Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent Series
Genre: Dystopian
Rating: 5 out of 5

The second book in the Divergent series follows Tris after the Erudite have started a war between all of the factions. This book is a lot darker than the first. It deals a lot with the pain and guilt of Tris after events from Divergent. I enjoyed the darker side to this book and that we saw how weak Tris could be and that she was not perfect and made mistakes. This is something that I praise within a novel. Not every main character can be perfect, and she certainly wasn't. She acted on impulse and threatened her life. I was really invested into the characters life and I often dislike the main character of a book so I'm ecstatic I that I really did like Tris.

One thing I disliked was the relationship between Tris and Four. I really enjoyed their relationship in the first book, and really loved Four's character in Divergent. However, I felt that there was not much focus on Four, he was distant and they were often not speaking through a lot of this book! It got a little repetitive when Tris would do something impulsive and Four would not approve and then they would make up. I did like the connection they had, which did not fail to disappoint. It's a romance I cared about and wanted to work, which also surprised me. I'm the type of cynical reader who dislikes any couple actually put together!

The book revolves a lot around a mystery that Tris is desperate to solving, even willing to sacrifice relationships to find out this mystery which may or may not be important. The end of the book is absolutely perfect. I haven't read an ending as good as this for so long. I crave for more! It was poignant and I really was speechless after reading it. I look back and know it was kind of obvious, but what does that matter! It got me reading and wanting more.

I am really excited to read the final book as well as the film adaptation to Insurgent.

All I Know Now by Carrie Hope Fletcher

Title: All I Know Now: Wonderings and Reflections on Growing up Gracefully
Author: Carrie Hope Fletcher
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 3 out of 5

Carrie Hope Fletcher is an author, a vlogger, a singer, a songwriter and last but not least an actor. I  have been subscribed to Carrie on YouTube and I like her videos, her positivity, her determination and her outlook on life. I was curious about the book so I thought I'd go ahead and purchase it.

Firstly, you can really see the effort and love she has put into this book. A lot of people who have YouTube channels have been releasing books recently and this can always create a little bit of worry. Are they getting a book deal because it is a good idea or because there's guaranteed young buyers and therefore profit? I felt like this wasn't the case with Carrie, (and I'm not saying this is the case for others, it's just a question you may think about) possibly because of her love of books and well just how genuine she seems.

Going into the book, I knew it wasn't particularly aimed at my age group (I am 19), but rather young teens. This expectation fitted reality. Sure, things were relatable and I could see how much passion had been put into the book. However, it was mainly advice for young teenagers struggling at school. A lot of the issues are things that people any age could have, such as bullying or the internet, friendships and relationships. The advice was quite generic and simple, as well as being advice I know doesn't really make a difference to me. I felt I'd already learnt a lot of what she was saying. Of course, she couldn't really go more in-depth with her advice, because it needed to be relatable than to one specific problem and I totally understand that. I think this book is great for young teenagers and an easy read for those who are older and I think different types of people can get at least something out of the book.

I wish there had been more insight into her life. There were a few quirky and serious stories but I would have liked more. I guess that's because it's not an autobiography but a non-fiction help book. I did like the layout of her book, and once again the word "quirky" comes to mind, you could really see her personality in this book, due to things like the chapters being called acts and a finale.

Overall, I think this is a great book for teens and I would definitely recommend it to someone of the right age category. I have nothing bad to say about the book at all, I just don't think it was written for older people! You can really see how much she put into this and it's great to actually be able to see that. It's definitely a little pick-me-up kind of read and can really make you think about your mistakes and how to be a better person. She tried hard not to sound condescending or shove her opinions in your face, but just suggestions on how you could improve yourself or your life, including the helpful 'props' for help if anyone needs it.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Title: If I Stay
Author: Gayle Forman
Genre: Young Adult
Rating: 3 out of 5

Description: If I stay is about a teenager called Mia who goes for a drive on a winter day with her family and this drive has terrible consequences. Mia must make the biggest decision of her life without the help of anyone else.

Taken from Goodreads.

I read If I stay because I wanted to read it before the film release (I did manage this, unfortunately been a little busy back at university and haven't had the time to review any books). I had heard a lot of positive things about this book so I was really excited to read it.

Overall, I was underwhelmed by this book. I was bored. I thought about not even finishing the book at one point.

I didn't connect with Mia. I didn't really feel any real emotional connection with her and this caused me to not really feel emotional about this book at all.. I didn't feel sad at all about her situation and honestly had no care for how she ended up by the end of the book. When she found out someone else had died, I don't know if it was supposed to be shocking or saddening or whatever but I felt literally nothing. These memories Mia had weren't inspiring nor did they remind me of the little things in life either.. I was just disappointed by the writing.

I was also disappointed as I thought the book was going to be more about her decisions about living and dying but it was rather just a gathering of memories reminding her of happy and sometimes not so happy things. The fact that she could choose one way or another was always prominent but there was no real depth to it. There wasn't really any depth to anything; the story or the characters. There didn't really seem to be much of a story to me...

Nearer the end of the book, I got a little bit emotional and a couple of tears may have come out (however I cry so easily at anything so I don't take this to mean much). But then at the end of the book, Mia just came to a sudden conclusion to her decision and it didn't even feel important and it was just such a boring end!

It was an okay book. It's not something I would recommend and I don't think I'll be reading the sequel to this book 'Where She Went'. I was really disappointed as I was sure it was going to be great.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I recently read Divergent by Veronica Roth which I am so happy I finally got round to. It only really happened by chance when I stumbled across the book in a charity shop and I thought there's no reason not to read it. Books don't tend to get hyped up or be made into movies for no reason.

I tend to avoid making assumptions before I read a book especially when I really don't know anything about it but I did! I decided not to read this book for a while because I'd assumed it was terrible and I would hate it. My assumptions mainly came from the trailers for the film that I've seen which is ridiculous. I decided it just looked like someone had taken ideas from The Hunger Games and made a bit of a spin on it and tada.

Taken from Goodreads 

Well, how wrong was I? Sure, there are similarities between the two but how many books are so obscure that they can't be compared to any other book. I think it's unfortunate that people, like I did, write off this book because it is compared to another huge series.

I absolutely loved this book. I kind of hated to love this book because it proved me wrong. I was desperate to know what was going to happen.

The relationship between Tris and Four was so interesting to see develop and I was really rooting for them. I loved them. It's not often I love the main characters of a book, I seem to usually have a burning hate for the main character but instead prefer smaller characters but I truly loved Tris. I think she's a great character for people to relate to and I really connected with her. As for Four? I was so intrigued by him and I was not disappointed! Finding out all about him was wonderful. Roth really made you feel things, the emotions I felt for different characters was intense!

I actually can't think of any negatives to this book, which is rare for me. If I'm being picky, I'd say that the comparison between the time of Tris in training and the sudden war that came along was not great. It felt like maybe the training was dragged on for a little longer than needed and then the huge war that exploded just happened so quickly and was squashed in the end of the book.

I can't praise this book enough. I really truly loved it. I can't wait to read the rest of the series. I may give the films a go too! This is a definite 5 out of 5 and I encourage people not to judge books too quickly before they've even given them a go.