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.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

PRE-RELEASE REVIEW: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven is a dystopian novel in which a pandemic occurs wiping out 99% of the world population. The book focuses on a few people different lives before and after the pandemic. These people are all connected by actor Arthur Leander. We discover the difficulties of surviving after the pandemic in a world where there is not even electricity or phones and when cults start to appear.

Photo taken from Goodreads

The opening chapter really excited me. The opening scene took place during a play of King Lear and well I don't want to spoil it, so all I will say it's a very dramatic opening scene and that really made me start reading more.

I won't lie though, I really didn't like this book for a good maybe 50 pages or something. I thought it was going to be one of those books that I couldn't even get through but I'm not one to give up on a book and I'm glad I didn't. I think I had trouble with the book because it's different to my usual reads.

I was amazed by how well Mandel connected everything together. All the characters were connected in different ways and I found that amazing, particularly they were all connected by Arthur Leander. I adore an author who can do such complex things with their writing like managing to connect people just as Mandel did. It wasn't even just simple connections, some of the connections we didn't find out for so long but then things just clicked and unravelled..

At first I found the mixture of going from the past and future very frustrating, but this just took some time getting used to and was a really great way for the author to tell the story! Mandel really pulled that off well.

I liked the book because you don't get to the end and everything is resolved, life is back to normal. There was just a hint of hope and I really liked that. I was so impressed by this book. Receiving it, I had never heard of the author or the book and I really didn't know what to think especially because it's probably not the type of book I'd choose. I really hope this book does well!

One thing that kept playing on my mind through the book was where's Jeevan? It was driving me crazy. I really wanted to know more about him and what he was doing and unfortunately he wasn't mentioned as much in the book as I would have liked. I feel I just instantly liked his character from the very beginning at the theatre. It was so good how Arthur was kind of in the centre of it all, with everyone connected around him. I ended up loving Kirsten however she seemed to be the only member of the travelling symphony who I really had some kind of vested interest in.. but I did really care what happened to her!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book.
Rating: 4 out of 5

Station Eleven releases on 10th September (UK)

Sunday, 3 August 2014

It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini

It's Kind of a Funny Story has been one that I've always thought about reading. I actually saw the film two or three years ago and fortunately it wasn't memorable enough to overpower my brain while reading the book, a problem that often occurs when I watch the film before the book. I have to admit though, I couldn't get some of the actors faces out of my head while reading the book.

It's Kind of a Funny Story is a story about Craig, a teenager who is battling depression who checks himself into a psychiatric hospital after wanting to commit suicide. The book focuses on the stress of school which really can get overlooked in real life and the expectations of himself and others to do well in school especially a school he worked so hard to get into.

What I enjoyed about this book is that there wasn't any big event that seemed to set off his depression. Craig also had a loving family. It represents those people who, from afar, seem like there is no reason for them to have depression and this is really, really important to modern day life. Often people are overlooked or told they're stupid because they apparently have no reason to be depressed and "people have it much worse than you". I really like how Vizzini kept away from all that, showing that anyone can have depression. This was the best and most important thing about the book.

What I think is really special about this book is that at the end of the book there is an extract to say that Vizzini was in a psychiatric hospital for 5 days, just like the character Craig. This is very poignant and shows that the book was really inspired by the authors own experiences. Unfortunately, the author is not around today due to his depression. This really seems to make the book that much more meaningful and personal to Vizzini.

I can't say I was extremely impressed with the book however I did like it's quirkiness showing Vizzini's great skill of even making such a sad and touching subject a little fun in ways. I did enjoy all the different characters in the hospital and the author did such a great job and creating such unique characters and really making the readers like the characters. Particularly, Noelle was an interesting character. She had cut her face with scissors and she is a great source for the struggles of teenage girls and their looks.

I love the book cover that I own (the one pictured above) and there is a reason behind this book cover. which is great! Craig enjoyed to draw a lot of maps when he was younger. While in the hospital he then revived his love for drawing maps and developed these pictured into something new. I feel like this was an interesting idea to bring something back from childhood that you loved but make it better and fall in love with it all over again.

One aspect I didn't really like is that it just seemed like almost all of Craig's problems were solved after just a few days in a hospital. He managed to eat some food, made some friends because they were the only people to talk to and really fancied a girl who fancied him back and that's all he really needed.. A bit of attention maybe. However, I guess it was still explained that depression never just goes, people just deal with through drugs or a therapist or other ways to ease the difficulties.

This book was a very easy read and even better because of it's simplicity. The progress of Craig throughout his stay was very interesting and it is a great book to get a real insight of a normal teenager's mind. I believe this is a very good YA read and would recommend it to all teenagers. It is definitely a book written just for teenagers with the exact language appropriate for the age group. I won't say this book was perfect but it was a nice short and easy read that really made you think a little.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

I'm a big historical fiction fan so when my mum gave me Wolf Hall to read I was really excited. As a history student I am obviously in love with learning about history but sometimes people think because of this I don't like historical fiction due to the inaccuracies but this is definitely not the case! It is fiction after all, I do not expect a true account of events.

I particularly love the Tudors therefore this book was just screaming read me. I'd say I have quite a lot of knowledge of the events within this book; I have learnt in detail about Henry VIII's first and second marriages and the rise and fall of Thomas Cromwell. (The rise of Cromwell is focused upon in Wolf Hall and his fall in Mantel's second book Bring up the Bodies)

Photo taken from Goodreads

To begin with I had a really difficult time reading this book because of Mantel's use of 'he' every few sentences. At first I just couldn't grip who she was talking about; was it different people each time or was 'he' consistently the same person? After way too many pages than I'd like to admit, I finally realised 'he' was always Cromwell. This helped me a lot to actually understand the book but it still aggravated me so much! 

As for the plot it does follow real events well; Henry VIII is married to Katherine of Aragon and she only manages to produce a female and becomes too old to conceive any more children so Henry must get rid. The story follows Wolsey's attempts to get Henry an annulment and then how Cromwell achieves this. Obviously it isn't that simple but that's what it is all based on. After this, Henry's marriage with Anne Boleyn. The thing is, it is all through Cromwell's viewpoint and we follow his life from being a teenage boy with family problems to his rise to Henry's side. I really enjoyed seeing all the events from Cromwell's eyes, someone who can often be overlooked. 

This book is around 650 pages and unfortunately for me, I only really liked the last 200 or so pages. I forced myself through a lot of this book, particularly at the beginning. I can't really pinpoint what it was I disliked so much. I just couldn't get my head around what was happening but maybe that is because there was seemingly nothing happening for at least the first half of the book or maybe because of the sheer amount of characters within the book making it difficult to keep track of who was who and what house they were from. 

I did like the way Cromwell was portrayed through the book, often seen as a man without much emotion and only really showing emotion when he lost some of his family and when alone when he thought about his deceased family. I could really imagine the way Cromwell acted in the book, being very sly and sharp but taking no interest in women when the women were obviously 'flirting' with him. I did really enjoy how he was drawn to Jane Seymour, a woman who seemed like a mystery to him. One thing I did like is the way Mantel portrayed her characters as I've just mentioned with Cromwell. I also really enjoyed her portrayal of Anne Boleyn as it felt like that's exactly how I thought her to be but Mantel had put it on paper in such subtle ways at times. 

One aspect I did not like was the title of the book. 'Wolf Hall' refers to the household of the Seymour family. The family were hardly mentioned within the story other than an affair and Cromwell's fancy for Jane. I was left wondering about the reason for the title until the very last sentence and that really got on my nerves. The book had little to do with the Seymour family and I like for a book to have a better meaning for its title. 

Overall, this was a difficult read which I took a while to get through but once I (finally) got to the last 200 (ish) pages, I seemed to really get into the story and got through it much easier. I felt that if the whole book was as good as the final third then I would have absolutely loved it. This negativity however, will not dissuade me from reading her follow up book Bring up the Bodies which I hope to read in the near future. 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart Review (Spoilers)

I recently read We Were Liars because I had heard so many people talking about the book, all seeming to have loved the book and raving about the shocking ending. As a way to promote the book everyone promoted it by lying about what it was about (due to the title of the book) as an advertising campaign so I didn't have much to go on in terms of the plot and the blurb gave nothing away either.

  Photo taken from Goodreads

I felt this book would help me get out of my funk I've had at the moment with reading. Lately, I've been taking a long time to get through books and it has really made it difficult for me to pick up my next book. I decided a Young Adult book would be just the thing to inspire me and remind me of my love for reading as well as being a quick and easy read. The book didn't disappoint me in this sense; I found it so easy to read and within a day I had read it all.

Once I started reading the book, I wasn't sure if it would be something I would enjoy. A book about rich people and their problems with being rich. Eh no. But I couldn't just base my opinion on the first few pages. As I read on I found the characters weren't that relatable and well the whole story wasn't relatable at all; particularly because I'm not rich and well the whole story wasn't likely to be relatable to anyone unless you've gone through something very similar...(unlikely). The family issues aren't something I've experienced such as family rivalries or a granddad who can not accept people of a different race, culture or religion or issues over money. I haven't experienced a father who left me and my mum. I definitely haven't had the type of 'relationship' like that of Cadence and Gat.

As for the ending, this shocking ending everyone was so excited and amazed by... I personally felt it was so obvious (not the event.. the 'accident') but the results of the event (the deaths). I feel like the author did not even try to hide the fact that there were characters who were dead in the book who Cadence carried on thinking were alive. E. Lockhart gave so many hints in her writing that the three characters were dead that I just do not know how anyone could have missed it. Honestly, the ending was screaming at me throughout my read. The only surprising thing is how their deaths occurred and well of course there had to be a little bit of mystery somewhere.

The title and the whole 'Liars' concept. I just didn't like that the group of four children/teenagers were referred to as the liars. It was only revealed near the end why they were called the liars even though they were called this all the way through the book. I didn't think it was a great name for the group and well I just didn't get it. As for the title.. Well it is a very intriguing title and it makes the book seem very mysterious which I think is what the author was trying to do and I do like the title however it doesn't really portray the book at all.. but what does that matter!

E. Lockhart has a very different type of writing style to many other authors and I suppose it can be a little strange and if you do not like it you just can not even carry on reading the book. As for me, I really did not mind it but I do not really see what she is achieving with this kind of sentence structure... Some of her sentences did put me off a little such as:

'My full name is Cadence Sinclair Eastman. 
I suffer migraines. I do not suffer fools.
I like a twist of meaning.
I endure'

Unfortunately this particular part I picked out was the ending of the book and well I just did not like this at all!

Although I've been very negative, I still enjoyed this book as a light, quick and easy read. I even cried near the end of the book (however that does not really mean much as I cry way too easily at a lot of things!). It was such an easy book to read and it was easy to follow. Unlike a fair few books I've read recently I did not get confused nor did I need a break from the book because it was just too much. I think that I would have had a better experience with this book if I started with a much more open mind without knowing there was going to be a big surprise because I think that is why I guessed what was happening and nothing was really a shock to me. E. Lockhart still managed to pull me in to the story and I was desperate to carry on reading!