Thursday, 30 January 2014

Book Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

I have avoided reading this book for a while now. Not because I did not think I would enjoy it but because I was worried about how emotional the content would make me. I am a weeper. I am well aware I can cry at the drop of a hat and books are no exceptions. In fact as a student warned me that I would and I quote here, ‘cry my face off’.  This really put me off as I just hate it when I get so emotionally involved that I cannot compose myself after closing the book.However, with my new goal to read different genres and new authors I thought I would kill the proverbial bird with one stone and read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. I have not read anything else by Green so the style was very new.  

I really got hooked by this book. The story is sad but handled in such a way that although I shed many a tear I was not as inconsolable as I had expected and there were many moments where I was laughing and cry such was the tone of the story.

The story centres on Hazel Grace who is fighting off cancer after unexpectedly beating it before. She has to have help to breathe constantly and as results is no longer in main stream education and is cared for by her mum. She is however living her life the best she can.  Hazels mother pushes her to attend a support group where she meets Augustus. A fellow cancer survivor, they bond over shared understanding and seem to be very much kindred spirits. Green creates a stunning romance between these characters that is not only believable but touching and sweet without being soppy and over-the-top. Augustus and Hazel find common ground after Hazel recommends the book An Imperial Affliction for Augustus to read. In a sweepingly romantic gesture Augustus manages to find the author of the story, a known recluse, and using his wish (a fictionalised version of the make a wish foundation) they travel to meet him and try find the answers they both now want, if not need.  

The story does have its complex moments that younger readers may find tough to get their heads around but as romance/tragedy fiction goes it is worthwhile contribution to the genre. Green has a way of writing that makes you feel the whole spectrum of emotions in short sharp bursts. 
I will not lie and say the book is not a sad one. It is without a doubt a tear-jerker but I do not believe Green has gone out of his way to make you cry. He has simply told the truth and sometimes the truth is unpleasantly sad. 
An emotional rollercoaster of a book

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Gone Girl: Gillian Flynn

There are two sides to every story...

As my regular readers will know my review posts are on the whole about young adult fiction. However, I treated myself to a few Kindle 99p treats and one of those was Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.

I am a big crime/murder mystery fan. I enjoy the slowly building suspense and trying to figure out what is going on before I get to the end.  Second guessing the author Flynn however, was harder than most crime novels. She really took me by surprise with the direction this story went. I spent the whole time I was reading it changing my mind about what on earth was going to happen. Flynn's writing style is very clever and predictive.

From the start Flynn manages to set the main male character, Nick up as a bad guy. I was filled with suspicion about him and listening to his wife Amy talk in her diary entries did nothing to eliminate this suspicion. Without giving too much away Flynn throws a serious spanner in the works that literally had me completely confused with how this story would conclude. The story is told in the first person point of view of both Nick and Amy and the chapters move between the two effortlessly.  The two characters are so complex but well written that you really get a sense of the two of them. Having said that I found neither of them particularly likable and I don't think I was really rooting for either character. I still can't decide if their personalities really exists in the general public, I certainly haven't met anyone like them (thankfully) that's for sure.

This is definitely a page turner, I found myself really hurrying towards the end. Sadly I was disappointed when I got there.  I felt the end lacked the intensity of the rest of the story. It felt really disconnected for me and completely obscure. I just couldn't get my head around the conclusion, it felt totally crazy but I wonder if that is what Flynn wanted to reflect the characters behaviour which was pretty crazy throughout the story.

This is most certainly NOT a book for young adults and is definitely for those who don't mind reasonably adult themes. However, for a crime story this is not particularly gruesome so is for those who enjoy suspense without the gore.  I may be willing to give some more of Flynn's books a go but I do hope the endings are better then this one.

Climatic build to a disappointing end 

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Top Ten Goals of 2014

Thank you to The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday. This week looking at goals for 2014 book related or a combination. I was not sure if I could get 10 book related goals but I think I managed to get a good combo!

1. Read new-to-me  authors

I think because a lot of the books I read are parts of series I end up reading a lot of books by similar authors. I am hoping that at least half of the books I read this year will be by new authors I have not read before. I am of to a good start with reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. 

2. Read 80 books

I was thrilled to be able to read 70 books last year. Now this does include my 7 re-reads  of the Harry Potter series but the rest were all fresh to me. I would like to aim to 80 books. This would probably include Harry again so that would only actually be a total of 3 new books to me. I am tempted not to follow my tradition and forgo the re-read this year but it genuinely makes me sad thinking of stopping. 

3. Step Outside the Comfort Zones

I am well aware of my natural lure of fantasy fiction.  I have not escaped this genre in my reading of Young Adult fiction and I have found that a lot of the books I read are heavily fantasy based. This is restricting me from recommending different styles of books to my students so I am hoping I can read a few more different genres. I am going to try do this by reading books featured on award lists. 

4.  Review all the books I read

This one is more for me. I don't mean I will blog every review, I just want to keep a record of all my opinions on the books I read over the course of the year. For one thing it gives me easy access to a cheeky blog post if I need on in an emergency. 

5. Stop getting library fines

Yes.. I admit it and hold my hands up. I am a terrible library customer even though I am a librarian. I am currently aware that my fine at my local library is the sum of £15 and I have been too afraid to pay it off. So I plan to march in there pay it off and then borrow books to my hearts content whilst returning them on time!

6. Make more exciting food

So this one as you can tell is not reading related. I will have to read recipes in order to construct these meals. I just want to be able to cook more tasty meals and now I have finished my degree I should (fingers crossed) have more time to whip up some yummy creations. 

7.  Begin to run again

Last year I wanted to run two half marathons. In total I ran a grand total of 0. I struggled to maintain my running with all my recurrent tonsillitis and my general lack of motivation. So I have signed up for one this year and have already begun training. I hope that I can keep up with running after the half takes place. 

8.  Watch less TV

Since being made redundant I found myself watching alot more TV then I would normally. This annoys me as half the time it seems to be just repeats and reruns as opposed to anything new. So I am hoping I can keep the TV time down a bit now I am back at work. 

9.  Blog at least twice a Week

I have really enjoyed watching my blog do better since I starting committing to it more. I have really enjoyed reviewing books prior to their publication and would like to do this more regularly. Hopefully I can maintain blogging at least twice a week. 

10. Improve my Reviews

I want my book reviews to be of a much higher standard. I want my readers to actually get a true sense of the book from my review and feel inspired to pick it up. I don't want to fall back on over used 'book reviewer' phrases so hopefully with some work my book reviews will be fresh and creative. 

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Book Review: Pawn by Aimee Carter

Are you more than the number on the back of your neck?

I think a large proportion of the books I have read this year have had the very familiar dystopian society that as of yet I am not tiring of. This one is another new world that is under a corrupt regime which groups it's people into numbers. Kitty Doe is the lead character and again she is another strong female lead. She is given an unexpected choice. She can remain a III due to her disappointing test results or she can join the ranks of the VII's and escape a life of certain misery. However, this choice comes with a shocking transformation that no one even considers to warn Kitty about. Chosen purely because of her distinct eye colour Kitty wakes up surgically Masked into the Prime Ministers recently deceased (not that anyone knows) niece Lila Hart. She must adapt and prove herself otherwise like Lila her life will come to an abrupt end. However, there is much more to the Hart family then meets the eye and Kitty has a serious decision to make as to whether she will play their game or if she will use her new face to lead a rebellion. 

It took me a while to grasp Kitty's motivations for her choice to become a VII as she had no idea what she was really agreeing to do and as expected it wasn't a choice without catches. Once the story builds she becomes more her own person and what she wants from her life becomes much clearer and as a reader something you can really catch on to.  Considering Kitty spends a great portion of her time pretending to be someone else Carter manages to ensure the Kitty's personality is present throughout the story. The other characters found in the Hart household helped to round out the story and I particularly liked the character of Augusta who has a really twisted understanding of keeping it in the family. The other characters are not developed in depth but they work well together. As with most young adult fiction I seem to pick up these day this book is the start of another series and makes me think the other members of the Hart family will become more well rounded as the story develops. 

A fair bit of time is used up in this book for Kitty to learn to be like Lila and although it is intriguing to read it does mean it takes a long time to get to some nitty gritty action. There is an overload of unexpected twists in this story which made it a little bit of a roller coaster ride to follow but once you got the gist it is a very clever plot-line and keeps you guessing continually as the authors writing is in no way predictable. I personally like the originality of the Masking process and found this aspect of the story an impressive writing feat. 

If you are getting a bit sick of the dystopian series that we are seeing so frequently then this is probably not for you. However, if you are a huge fan of dystopian worlds then I would dive right into this new series. 

A unique concept - worth reading for dystopian fans

I was provided with a copy of this book for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.