Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Name: The Raven Boys
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Publisher: Scholastic Children's Books
Date published: 2012
Rating: 5/5

Even if Blue hadn't been told her true love would die if she kissed him, she would stay away from boys. Especially the ones from the local private school. Known as Raven Boys, they only mean trouble.
But this is the year that everything will change for Blue.
This is the year that she will be drawn into the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys. And the year Blue will discover that magic does exist.
This is the year she will fall in love.
- From Goodreads.

The Raven Boys had a slower pace than some of the other books I have read recently and I found I actually enjoyed it for that. It took its time and it was not episodic, with one big event after the other. It let you take the time to get to know the characters and was still interesting to read without having constant action. As it went on, especially towards the end, the story did pick up pace well, with added excitement and suspense which kept me eager to read and intrigued with the events of the story. The book was also structured well in that the mysteries of the story were very clever and the answers were hinted at in such a way that you did not realise the hint was a serious one until the answer was revealed.
The book had fascinating and complicated characters whose personalities were developed and revealed as the story went on, and continued to show their depth and potential to surprise throughout it. The language was used to provoke such feeling and empathy for the characters that you really came to connect to them and there was a fun sense of humour in the writing that added some brilliant lighthearted moments that explored the playful sides of the characters without ruining the mood of the darker moments.
There was also a really enjoyable exploration of magic and how it works in the world of the novel, how it affects each character and what it means to each of them. It was fascinating to read about Blue's family's relationship to magic and how they worked with it, and how that contrasted with the Raven Boys' relationship to magic and their almost desperate search for it.
Despite the fact that it is set in spring, it really does feel like a perfect book to curl up inside with on an autumn day, and I would definitely recommend reading it this season if you have not yet. I am very much looking forward to when I get the chance to read the other books in this series.

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Friday, 23 September 2016

Review: Love Song by Sophia Bennett

Name: Love Song
Author: Sophia Bennett
Publisher: Chicken House
Date published: 2016
Rating: 5/5

A million girls would kill for the chance to meet The Point, but Nina's not one of them.
She's the new assistant to the lead singer's diva fiancée, and she knows it's going to suck. She quickly learns that being with the hottest band on the planet isn't as easy as it looks: behind the scenes, the boys are on the verge of splitting up. Tasked with keeping an eye on four gorgeous but spoiled rock stars, Nina's determined to stick it out - and not fall for any of them...
- From Goodreads.

Love Song drew me in right from the beginning and made me want to sit down and read the whole thing through in one sitting. It made me remember why I love contemporary fiction, as I have been reading a lot of fantasy lately, after which I could not find as much enjoyment in contemporary but this book reminded me what is so great about the genre.
I thought the passion for music that leapt from the pages was wonderful, I always really love books that convey a love for music because I adore it so much myself. Speaking of music, I just have to mention that I love the fact that Can't Help Falling in Love by Elvis was played at Orli's wedding because I just really, completely and utterly love that song. There was also a love for literature, poetry, art, and a great respect for creativity which I think helped emphasise the importance of being able to express yourself creatively, to show and understand your emotions, which is a thread throughout the book.
The characters were cute and funny and loveable (I mean the nice ones of course, not Sigrid, never Sigrid) and well-rounded, each with an important background, and they all really made the story fun and enjoyable. Even though Sigrid was incredibly dislikable, of course, she still felt like a real individual and not two-dimensional.
Overall, this was a sweet, enjoyable, and exciting read that I would recommend to anyone who likes funny and intriguing writing. Also there were Taylor Swift, Doctor Who and Harry Potter references, which is always fantastic.

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Friday, 16 September 2016

Review: How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

Name: How Not to Disappear
Author: Clare Furniss
Publisher: Simon Schuster
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Minor

Our memories are what makes us who we are. Some are real. Some are made up. But they are the stories that tell us who we are. Without them, we are nobody.
Hattie's summer isn't going as planned. Her two best friends have abandoned her: Reuben has run off to Europe to "find himself" and Kat is in Edinburgh with her new girlfriend. Meanwhile Hattie is stuck babysitting her twin siblings and dealing with endless drama around her mum's wedding. Oh, and she's also just discovered that she's pregnant  with Reuben's baby.
Then Gloria, Hattie's great-aunt who no one even knew existed, comes crashing into her life. Gloria's fiercely independent, rather too fond of a gin sling and is in the early stages of dementia. Together the two of them set out on a road trip of self-discovery - Gloria to finally confront the secrets of her past before they are erased from her memory forever and Hattie to face the hard choices that will determine her future.
- From Goodreads.

How Not to Disappear was an emotional story that did not shy away from some difficult elements, and addressed those elements without making you want to stop reading it. By addressing troubling issues it showed how important it is that we face problems in our society and stand up to its flaws, such as racism and rape culture. It showed how important progress is, in that it reminds you of how much worse things used to be, but also how we still have room to keep improving.
While doing this, there was at the same time still a sense of humour which helped the book feel optimistic in the face of the tough decisions and situations that the characters had to deal with. There was an important message of keeping hopeful in the face of despair and this was helped by the fact that the two narrators still managed to find moments of humour, and it felt more realistic that way too, as it showed how complicated and mixed up life can be, with many different ups and downs.
The novel also had a wonderful use of language to convey emotion, it was evocative and heartfelt, and witty too. The language was well used to emphasise the significance of feeling in the story, and the importance of the idea of being alive in the moment and letting yourself feel in the moment.

Monday, 12 September 2016

Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Name: The Rest of Us Just Live Here
Author: Patrick Ness
Publisher: Walker Books
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5
Spoiler warning: Major

What if you aren't the Chosen One? The one who's supposed to fight the zombies, or the soul-eating ghosts, or whatever the heck this new thing is, with the blue lights and the death?
What if you're like Mikey? Who just wants to graduate and go to prom and maybe finally work up the courage to ask Henna out before someone goes and blows up the high school. Again.
Because sometimes there are problems bigger than this week's end of the world, and sometimes you just have to find the extraordinary in your ordinary life.
Even if your best friend is worshipped by mountain lions.
- From Goodreads.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here consists of a unique, clever and witty idea for a book that felt really refreshing and interesting. It took tired-out clichés and twisted the angle and made them new and exciting again. It was playful and thoughtful at the same time.
I think I expected it to be more humourous and satirical than it was. The humour and satire was there, but I suppose I expected to be more at the forefront, given the premise of the novel was a satire of the whole "chosen one" idea and genre, and I did not expect there to be such a serious tone and a focus on serious subjects, but I think that was a good kind of surprise, as it dealt well with the serious subjects, especially mental illness.
In terms of characters, I do not think I liked Henna as much as I should have done. I do not know what it was, but I felt like maybe she was supposed to be quite likeable, but while I certainly did not hate or even dislike her, I did not really like her too much either. Maybe it was because I felt she messed around with Mikey's feelings quite a bit and was not very considerate of them. I know she was trying to figure out her own feelings, and nobody is perfect, but she could have handled it better and thought more of how her actions might affect him and his feelings as well as her own. Mikey obviously was not perfect himself, and his jealousy was a good reason for her to be annoyed at him, and jealousy is one of the most annoying character traits (do not get me started on how much I hate love triangles), but I felt like I could understand more about why he was unhappy with her than why she was with him, and I do not think that is just because it was from Mikey's perspective. I am glad they did not end up together at the end because it would have not felt quite right between them.
Overall, I think it was a really great book that I very much enjoyed reading (I would not have read it as quickly as I did, in only a couple of days, if I did not), but I think I went in with my expectations a little too high and it did not quite reach them.

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Thursday, 8 September 2016

Review: These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly

Name: These Shallow Graves
Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Publisher: Hot Key Books
Date published: 2015
Rating: 4/5

Josephine Montfort is from one of New York's oldest, most respected and wealthiest families. Like most well-off girls of the Gilded Age, her future looks set - after a finishing school education, she will be favourably married off to a handsome gentleman, after which she'll want for nothing. But Jo has other dreams and desires that make her long for a very different kind of future. She wants a more meaningful and exciting life: she wants to be an investigative journalist like her heroine Nelly Bly. But when Jo's father is found dead in his study after an alleged accident, her life becomes far more exciting than even Jo would wish. Unable to accept that her father could have been so careless, she begins to investigate his death with the help of a young reporter, Eddie Gallagher. It quickly becomes clear he was murdered, and in their race against time to discover the culprit and his motive, Jo and Eddie find themselves not only battling dark characters on the violent and gritty streets of New York, but also their growing feelings for each other.
- From Goodreads.

These Shallow Graves was an exciting story and a clever mystery with some humourous moments and a wonderful romance.
Donnelly used the plot, setting and characters well to show the struggle in women's search for equality, with Jo coming up against obstacles because of her gender and learning that she believes that these obstacles should not exist, as well as to show issues with class and how the upper and lower classes feel towards each other. It appeared to be a very well-researched book, as its setting in time and place seemed very real and as a reader I was very much immersed in the story because of the thought that had gone into the background.
I did guess a couple of the small parts of the mystery, but for the most part, Donnelly had written the mystery so well that I was unravelling the answers along with Jo, and there were a couple of plot twists at the end that I definitely did not see coming, and the reveals of which I thought were really well executed. It was an exciting story that always left me wanting to know more and kept me on my feet, with intriguing and surprising characters, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys both murder mysteries and young adult novels, because this was a brilliant combination of both.

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a competition.

Saturday, 3 September 2016

Review: Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online by Emma Gannon

Name: Ctrl, Alt; Delete: How I Grew Up Online
Author: Emma Gannon
Publisher: Ebury Press
Date published: 2016
Rating: 4/5

Emma Gannon was born  in 1989, the year the World Wide Web was conceived, so she's literally grown up alongside the Internet. There've been late night chat room experiments, sexting from a Nokia and dubious webcam exchanges. And let's not forget catfishing, MSN, digital friendships and #feminism. She was basically social networking before it was a thing - and she's even made a successful career from it.
- From Goodreads.

How I Grew Up Online is an interesting discussion of difficult issues that can affect young people, such as self-image and how society today makes us very aware of how we look, especially with the media, and is written from a female perspective that shows how girls and women can be both negatively and positively affected by the online world.
I liked the sense of humour that Emma tells her stories with, when the story was not too serious in nature she made light fun of it, which I found quite entertaining. The book as a whole was not incredibly gripping in that it did not have me unable to put it down, but it was still an enjoyable read that brought forward some interesting points about intriguing topics.
I think Emma made a good point about how we have a big problem with abuse on the internet and how that makes it difficult, when people are determined to make hateful comments at you rather than become involved in a conversation, to discuss important and controversial topics, some of which she also discusses in the book, such as feminism and the difficulty in learning to be a feminist when the internet makes it difficult to make mistakes. The book also makes a good point about how, while it is not the be-all and end-all, the internet is still important and can be used for good.

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My copy of this book was received from Maximum Pop Books as a prize from a giveaway.