Thursday, 21 August 2014

Review: Messenger of Fear (Messenger of Fear #1) by Michael Grant

Review also available on my blog!


I remembered my name – Mara. But, standing in that ghostly place, faced with the solemn young man in the black coat with silver skulls for buttons, I could recall nothing else about myself.

And then the games began.

The Messenger sees the darkness in young hearts, and the damage it inflicts upon the world. If they go unpunished, he offers the wicked a game. Win, and they can go free. Lose, and they will live out their greatest fear. 

But what does any of this have to do with Mara? She is about to find out … - Goodreads

Author: Michael Grant
Published: August 26th 2014
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Source: An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating4 of 5 stars


Wow. WOW. I am so so SO excited about this series! You may know that Michael Grant is one of my favourite authors. His Gone and BZRK series have pushed the limits of YA fiction in terms of graphic detail and thrills to the point of horror. This book does NOT disappoint.

The protagonist, Mara, wakes up surrounded by mist not knowing anything about herself except her name. I love books where you discover things as the main character does - Maze Runner anyone? I loved that series. The mystery is gripping. Mara heads to a nearby creepy church and meets the Messenger which is where her story really begins. Throughout the book, you learn little bits of info about Mara at a time - the Messenger controls her memories. Although this control makes the Messenger a powerful character, Mara isn’t submissive and does stand up for herself. We learn about her in terms of her reaction to things as well as her memories. I really enjoyed the characters in this series. You’re introduced to people from the Messenger’s world who are so fantastical and alluring but also ordinary people from a high school. I loved this contrast of the surreal and the mundane.

Like I just mentioned this book deals with a high school. Among others (love the multiple plotlines!) (so hard not to give anything away!) There’s this huge philosophical world of justice which the Messenger has to serve out but Grant also deals with serious teenage issues such as bullying, homophobia and teen suicide. I like how he treats both with depth and gravity, and interweaves one with the other.

Now the CREEPY parts. WOW. Always a highlight in his writing, the chilling elements of this book really are addictive. They are so unique that you can’t predict what might happen and there is a real shock element. At one part I had to put the book down and just be like WHAT DID I JUST READ. WOAH. It was crazy, gross, creepy and it is gripping writing! Grant continues his fantastic gruesomeness that he used in his other series.

There is a lot of mystery in this plot. On several levels. Who is Mara? Who is the Messenger? What is this world? But as the Messenger deals out a game in order to get justice, this book does also raise real questions about right vs wrong and does the punishment always fit the crime? It does make you think. 

The reason this book is a 4 is because it did feel quite introductory. You’re learning the ropes as Mara is and at the end you learn a bit about the history/religion of this other world that the Messenger inhabits. Now that we’re familiar with this world, I feel like book 2 can really expand on the fantasy and the other characters to properly develop into something brilliant. There are several hints as to what we can expect in book 2! Oh, and there’s a twist at the end which is just superb.

Overall, chilling, mysterious and deliciously creepy, Grant uses the style of his widely successful Gone series to create a world with fantastic depth and raises real questions about right vs wrong. Highly anticipating book 2!!

4 stars.

Are you excited for this book or what? :D

-Molly

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Review: Between the Lives by Jessica Shirvington

Review also available on my blog!


The perfect life or the perfect love. You choose.

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she shifts to her ‘other’ life - a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she’s a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she’s considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments that bring her dangerously close to the life she’s always wanted. But if she can only have one life, which is the one she’ll choose?

A compelling psychological thriller about a girl who lives two parallel lives - this is Sliding Doors for the YA audience. - Goodreads

Published: August 7th 2014
Publisher: Orchard Books
Source: An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating4 of 5 stars

Hi everyone!

So Between the Lives is about Sabine, who lives each day twice, in two different lives. I was already captivated by this idea, it’s so unique and there are so many different directions Shirvington could have taken. As quite a sci-fi sort of idea, it was described wonderfully - even details such as meeting her other self and wounds in either life were addressed. But it wasn’t so detailed that you get confused, Shirvington clearly and concisely sets the scene which lets the readers fully immerse themselves in the story.

The writing is really easy to read and this along with many tense moments makes this a very gripping read. I read it in less than a day. I also loved how there were tense moments at midnight in one life, then she woke up in the other life and you really feel her frustration, anticipation or fear to return to the other life. Throughout this book you want to know more and more and so this was an incredibly quick read. I was also thankful that each chapter told the reader what life she was in and what day it was. I was starting to understand the confusion living through days twice could cause!

The characters were fab. I could really relate to the struggle of Sabine as she often felt it was hard to fit in and we’ve all felt that at some point. I loved how different she was in her lives, goth in one and blonde and popular in another. This mix of personalities I felt gave her character depth. Shirvington uses Sabine and her lives to talk about issues such as self harm and suicide and I thought she dealt with them in an appropriate way considering the YA audience. Ethan was lovely as a heartthrob but he wasn’t anything too new if that makes sense? He is a great character but I didn’t feel it was refreshingly new. The minor characters such as Capri and Lucy I totally fell in love with as they are light and genuine.

The reason this book is a four is because I was disappointed with the lack of explanation of Sabine’s condition. It never really explains why she is living two lives. With references to ‘glitches’ I thought this book might develop into something bigger but considering this is a stand alone, I think Shirvington did tread the right path. I just was left with many unanswered questions which could have perhaps developed this book into a trilogy or a series. But for a stand alone the plot was understandable. However, I do think this book has lots of potential to become a series.

Overall, a gripping, emotional and unique story with surprising reflections of our own lives and bundles of potential.

4 stars.

Have you read this book/going to read? :)

-Molly

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Review: The Moment Collector by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Review also available on my blog!


"The yard of this house is a graveyard of moments and everything left behind is a clue. And I am here to dig."

There’s a ghost haunting 208 Water Street. She doesn’t know who she was, or why she’s still here. She does know that she is drawn to Maggie, the new girl in town, and her friends - beautiful, carefree Pauline and Liam, the boy who loves her.

But the ghost isn’t all that’s lurking in Gill Creek… Someone is killing young girls all across the county. Can the ghost keep these three friends safe? Or does she have another purpose? - Goodreads

Published: August 7th 2014
Publisher: Orchard Books
Source: An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating5 of 5 stars

Hi everyone!

This book was first published last year as The Vanishing Season, which I find to be an unsuitable title - The Moment Collector is much better suited to the story in my opinion.

Before I get into my review I need to make sure you understand some things. 

1) Many people did not enjoy this book as they expected a serial killer/ghost story. These are elements of the books but definitely not a MAJOR part. It is an absolutelybeautiful book about friendship, romance and coming of age, with a ghost twist.

2) I wouldn’t call it an exciting book per se. There is a killer but there is no tension or fear. This will put some people off but I urge you to read this book for other reasons I’ll go into in a moment.

3) This book HAS received some unfair (imo) reviews because of expectations not being met. Although different from expected, it is a wonderful read.

OKAY! Now that’s done I can go into the review! I loved this book. Anderson’s writing is absolutely exquisite and although the plot lacks tension, Anderson’s writing makes it seem like there doesn’t need to be any tension. The story is told in third person from mostly Maggie’s point of view. But occasionally there are parts told from the perspective of a ghost who lives in Maggie’s house. The ghost does not know who she was and slips around in time. These are the parts I looked forward to. They are written in such haunting prose and are filled with a sense of inevitability. For me, there was no shock in this book. Even in the end, when everything is revealed, Anderson really cleverly (using the ghost) makes you feel as if this was always going to happen. Not in a negative, helpless way but in a sort of satisfied way. Like, a kind of peace that everything has fallen into place. Ugh I can feel my words mushing together it’s just I am unable to put into words how utterly gorgeous Anderson’s writing is. Although the plot will leave some people disappointed for lack of ‘action’ I found the pure simplicity of this book incredible. 

The characters were fabulous because they were so real. There are so many writers these days who write their characters as flawless. That they handle all situations perfectly. And they also use stereotypes such as antagonist female teenager - beautiful and popular compared to the protagonist who is quiet and meek. Plus the love triangles which I have grown to hate due to how they are ALL THE SAME. However, each of Anderson’s characters were so unique. Maggie, the protagonist, although quiet - she isn’t meek. She is headstrong and gets angry. Just like the best of us, she can be petty and mean sometimes. Pauline - she is beautiful and gets the attention of others but she doesn’t utilise it. I loved how childlike she is, how she is so naive compared to Maggie but not in a pathetic way. Liam - finally a boy who isn’t obsessed with the protagonist! Although there is a love triangle is this book, it isn’t cheesy. It’s complex, and gritty and necessary, like those in life, for the characters to grow and develop. I can’t really describe these characters fully because they are so real - it would be more accurate to describe them as people.

Overall, although differing from expectations, this book is an exquisitely haunting mystery, with characters so real they leap off the page and writing so beautiful it will linger with you for hours. I highly recommend and will definitely be reading more of Jodi Lynn Anderson’s work.

5 stars.

Will you be checking this out when it’s released tomorrow? :)

-Molly

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Review: The Young World (The Young World Trilogy #1) by Chris Weitz

Review also available on my blog!



Welcome to New York, a city ruled by teens. After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind. The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park …and discovers truths they could never have imagined. - Goodreads

Author: Chris Weitz
Published: July 29th 2014
Publisher: Atom
Source: An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating4 of 5 stars

CONTAINS VERY MINOR SPOILERS

Hi everyone!

I know exactly what you are thinking when you read the description for this book - ‘I’ve heard it all before’. And I thought the exact same thing - I immediately thought ofGone by Michael Grant. However, The Young World proved to me that a book does not have to be particularly new, in terms of ideas, to be a good read.

It tells the story of life after It Happened - a Sickness that killed all the adults and little kids, but the teenagers survive because of their hormones. Okay so maybe you have to suspend your disbelief slightly but the story does work.The teens have formed tribes, and The Young World is about a group of teens from a tribe trying to find a cure for the Sickness. My favourite part about this book is the plot. It is gripping, tense and you will keep reading to find out what happens next. It’s why I love Dystopia, although the genre is quite exhausted. There are lots of exciting scenes contrasted with the right amount of calm, character building ones so that it doesn’t turn into an all-action-no-plot kind of book. I loved the tribes. The interaction between the protagonists’ tribe and others is really fascinating and I think the way Weitz showed how different people reacted in different ways to the end of the world was very interesting. Interwoven with this is the overarching plot to find a cure. It’s deliciously  addictive - you always want to know what they are going to encounter next.

The pacing of this story was excellent until the ending which I felt was a bit too rushed. I felt that the pinnacle of their journey deserved more time to develop into where the second book will head. The cliffhanger, although a tad predictable, was very enjoyable. The plot and the pacing were the highlights of this book for me.

It is told from the viewpoints of two of the main characters - Jefferson and Donna. I enjoyed both of their contrasting narrative styles at first - with Jefferson being mature and intelligent but with doubts and Donna yearning for the past by using LOTS of pop culture references and the word ‘like’ frequently - I thought it was great how Weitz reflected the teenage use of language. However, as the book went on I started to dislike Donna’s narrative. She’s very rude and bitter, and I started to find her voice very grating. I think the book would have been better if told simply from Jefferson’s perspective. 

I enjoyed the characters but only to an extent. I think the racial, gender and sexual orientation diversity was really great and also the tension that emerges within these groups. However certain characters such as Peter - a gay African American, were very stereotypical and others such as SeeThrough had great potential, but were not developed enough. However, the biggest character problem I had was with Donna. At the start she is described as a girl-power feminist but I found her treatment of the rape survivor Kath shocking. I understand that she felt threatened by her but as girl in this now brutal world, surely she could be more empathetic to her situation? As a reader, you’re meant to like the narrator protagonist, even agree with their opinions. Which is why I completely did not understand Donna’s treatment of Kath. I generally did not think the rape theme was treated well within this book.

Overall, a wonderfully addictive read despite some problems proving that a dystopian does not need to bring anything new to the table to be a good book.

4 stars.

What were your opinions of this book? :)

-Molly

Friday, 1 August 2014

Review: The Mapmaker's Daughter by Caroline Dunford

Review also available on my blog!

Sharra’s world is a terrifying place. Violent seismic ‘Shifts’ and outbreaks of an all-consuming black fire radically alter landscapes on an increasingly frequent basis. Only the Map Makers can predict where the Shift will fall, and Sharra, daughter to one of the most famous Map Makers, yearns to join their ranks and break a cultural taboo which forbids female cartographers.Sharra’s father, Lord Milton, is one of the few to challenge the current order, but his shadowy past limits his political reach and his second wife, Lady Ivory, is determined to manipulate him to ensure a privileged future for herself and her daughter, Jayne. The main obstacle standing in Ivory’s way is Sharra. - Goodreads

Published: April 17th 2014
Publisher: Bloomsbury Spark
Source: An eARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
My rating3 of 5 stars

Hi guys!

In The Mapmaker’s Daughter, you are thrown straight into the fantasy world Sharra lives in. I’m not sure if the world has a name but it has two moons so it isn’t Earth. This world has very violent Shifts which the Mapmaker’s predict and makes maps to tell people where is safe. This idea of Maps and Shifts is really imaginative and I loved the originality of the idea and the direction Dunford chose to take with this plotline. Although being thrust straight into this is a bit confusing to start, once you grasp the idea, you are really immersed into this world like any good fantasy book should do. With such an original idea I found it difficult to predict what was going to happen and therefore the ending was pleasantly unpredictable.

Although this is a fantasy book with a different world, it wasn’t filled with pages and pages of historical description of world. This works in cases such as Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones but it is very tricky making it readable and if it goes wrong then it can ruin a book. I enjoyed how The Mapmaker’s Daughter leapt straight into the story and the action. It made this a very quick and gripping read - I read it in one sitting - as you are eager to know what happens. However, although I enjoyed the quick pace of this book, I think Dunford could have included perhaps more information about the world’s history. Not too much but a little more as although you knew enough about the Shifts to understand them, more historical information typical in fantasy would have given this book the depth which I felt that it lacked.

I enjoyed the variety of characters. There was a real mix of good and evil as well as others who were a mix of both. However, I felt much more description of the characters was needed. You are never told Sharra’s age or appearance. Only that Jayne (her step-sister) is two years older than her. But we are never told Jayne’s age! I pictured Sharra as about 15 years old in this book due to her childish nature but maturity to soon be getting married. However, as we are never told her age, she could be anywhere from 13-18! Her appearance isn’t mentioned either, I simply pictured her as the girl on the cover. I found this particularly strange as certain characters, such as Gareth, through the use of similes I could easily picture in my mind, but many others I simply had to guess. This was a major downfall, in my opinion.

Overall, a very promising book with a wonderfully original plot but would have benefited with more depth in terms of characters and the history of the world it is set in.

3 stars.

Have you read this ebook? What did you think? :)

Read my interview with the author - Caroline Dunford!

-Molly

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Review: Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Review also available on my blog!



Any great friendship can be as confusing, treacherous, inspiring and wonderful as any great romance.
Naomi and Ely have been best friends forever. Naomi loves and is in love with Ely, and Ely loves Naomi, but prefers to be in love with boys. So they create their "No Kiss List" of people neither of them is allowed to kiss.
And this works fine - until Bruce.
Bruce is Naomi's boyfriend, so there's no reason to put him on the List. But Ely kissed Bruce - and the resulting fallout is going to shake up the world! - Goodreads

Title: Naomi and Ely's No Kiss List
Authors: Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Genre: Young adult-romance-contemporary
Published: July 3rd 2014
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Source: A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating4 of 5 stars
The Book Depository


Hi guys!

If you've read my review of another book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, then you'll understand that I went into this book with a bit of trepidation. I found the style of Nick and Norah's Infinite playlist tricky to read and hard to understand and I was worried that this book would have the same style. However, immediately once I began reading I feel right into the style. The use of emoticons I found really reflected this teenage generation obsession of technology. The style was easy to read and felt like I was in the heads of each of these characters, who all have problems, like everyone does. Also, I thought the use of several different points of view might make the reader feel distant from the characters but I enjoyed the different perspectives on the same situations. It gives the reader deep insights into many characters, and I found the development of every character very refreshing, rather than just the main characters and the background ones.

I loved the plot of this book. It dealt with some really interesting ideas. Naomi being in love with Ely but Ely being gay and kissing her boyfriend and how their friendship changes. The character development through this plot is superb. And because Naomi and Ely's friendship is such a big thing that it affected everyone in their building and their general vicinity, it is wonderful seeing the development of all the characters.

For a short read this book had great pacing as well, wasn't too rushed or too slow. I felt as if everything happened as it should have done and the ending didn't feel odd or unexpected.

Overall, this was a lovely short book about friendships, relationships and coming of age. A gorgeous contemporary read.

4 stars.

What did you think of this book? :)

-Molly

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Review: Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

Review also available on my blog!


A sexy, funny roller coaster of a story about one date over one very long night in New York. Nick and Norah are both suffering from broken hearts. So when Nick sees the girl who dumped him walk in with a new guy he asks the strange girl next to him to be his girlfriend for the next five minutes. Norah would do anything to avoid conversation with the not-friend girl who dumped Nick, and get over the Evil Ex whom Norah never quite broke up with. And so she agrees. What follows is an epic first date between two people who are just trying to figure out who they want to be - and where the next great band is playing. - Goodreads

Published: 3rd July 2014
Publisher: Electric Monkey
Source: A copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating2 of 5 stars

Hi guys!

Although I hadn’t heard of Rachel Cohn before I read this, I had heard of David Levithan from his book Two Boys Kissing - which lots of people say is great. I am unsure about co-written books but this plot sounded interesting so I decided to request it. It was first published in 2006 but reprinted early this month with a cool new cover!

Straight away, I didn’t connect to this book. I found the style really hard to understand and some sentences I had to read twice to fully understand. I did finish this book but the complex writing style made it difficult to read - especially for a short book. Whereas some sentences were incredibly poetic and deep, others were filled with the F-word (used gratuitously in this book) which meant that contrasted with each other they felt out of place. I can understand that perhaps Cohn and Levithan were trying to convey a message about what the teenage society is like but for me I found it confusing and very difficult to read. It stopped me from connecting to the plot, or the characters.

The pace for me was disjointed. The start of the book was very quick, too quick. You’re dropped immediately into this concert without knowing anything about the characters or the situation. Perhaps the authors were reflecting the characters’ immediate relationship but I found it disconcerting. I was hoping for some introduction, setting the scene, before Nick met Norah. However, after they met and got in Nick’s car, the pace slowed too much and it took ages for something else to happen.

Although the characters were quirky and at moments I did think they were cute or funny but generally I thought that Cohn and Levithan were trying so hard to make them edgy and cool that they overloaded the characters’ dialogue with obscure references which as a teenager I didn’t understand.

Overall, although some interesting ideas were explored and some sentences were really poetic, I generally did not enjoy this book. I found the style overly complex and difficult to read and the characters were a struggle to connect with.

2 stars.

How did you find this book? :)

-Molly

Friday, 18 July 2014

Review: Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss #1) by Stephanie Perkins

Review also available on my blog!


Can Anna find love in the City of Light?
Anna is happy in Atlanta. She has a loyal best friend and a crush on her coworker at the movie theater, who is just starting to return her affection. So she’s less than thrilled when her father decides to send her to a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. But despite not speaking a word of French, Anna meets some cool new people, including the handsome Étienne St. Clair, who quickly becomes her best friend. Unfortunately, he’s taken —and Anna might be, too. Will a year of romantic near misses end with the French kiss she’s waiting for? - Goodreads

Title: Anna and the French Kiss
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Genre: Young adult-romance-contemporary 
Published: August 4th 2011
Publisher: Speak
Source: Bought
My rating5 of 5 stars
The Book Depository


Hi guys!

Okay, let me say it outright, I LOVED this book. New favourite. Prime place on my shelf. Yearning for #2. Recommending to everyone I see. I LOOOOVVVEEEDDD this book. Seriously.

Now you know what this review will consist of (me fangirling), let’s begin!
So, I knew right away I liked this book. You know when you start a book and the style/voice/narrator/tone just draws you in? That’s how I felt when I started. It surprised me because even though I’d heard such glowing reviews and seen its high Goodreads rating, I was expecting between 65-90% cheeseballs. I mean, a teenage girl falling in love in Paris? I thought it’d be a quick, fun but predictable read. How WRONG I was!

It grabbed me straight away. Perkins’ tone is so damn easy to read and wonderfully addictive. You’ll start by saying “Oh I’ll just read the first chapter out in the evening sun” and end up chilly and locked out at 8:30pm because your Mum thought you were in your room. (….) *ahem* It’s so gripping. The tone made you read so quickly that you visualise the scenes in your mind and forget that you’re reading.

The Paris element. I really loved the descriptions of the city and the people. I’ve been to France and Paris several times and I don’t know if Stephanie Perkins has been there but she captures the essence of the city so well. A novel set in a boarding school in a foreign country could fall into the trap of focusing on the school and when the characters go outside then give vague descriptions - only using the place as a plot device. Perkins avoids that mistake and I loved how well she captures Paris.

The characters. Oh sweet Lord the CHARACTERS! I’ve mentioned before how paramount characters are me, personally, when reading and I simply fell in love with every single character in this book. Even Dave. (I loved how realistically slimy he was). Firstly, the protagonist Anna. As a first person narrator, it is really important that the readers like Anna. I loved her. I think the moment I fell in love with her is here:

image

That is my reaction whenever I (rarely) interact with a hot boy. I just flail and blurt out anything on my mind. So yeah that was the moment I fell in love with Anna. She is witty and hilarious throughout the whole book. - Sidenote: first book in a LONG time to make me laugh out. And cringe so badly I had to read through my fingers.

Étienne St. Clair. Wow. I love him. He’s so confident and Anna talks about his hair a lot and who doesn’t like boys with gorgeous hair? And he’s a gentleman and sweet and … I’m beginning to sound like Anna right? Right. Another fictional character to obsess over. But ANYWAY. St. Clair. Some of you might remember that I was worried I might visualise my French teacher as he is also called Etienne. Yeah that did NOT happen. What I love about Étienne is that he is flawed. He’s insecure about his height and his fear of heights. He does make mistakes. He’s also so real. He goes through some real emotional stuff through this book and it makes him, more real. A character you can easily fall in love with. Easily. All the characters in this book were so developed, not just the couple and they were in the background. All interacted and were given thoughts, feelings. I loved seeing Rashmi develop through this book.

Like I said earlier, I was expecting it to be cheesy. Which is why I liked that it wasn’t that Anna loved Étienne straight away. One of my favourite moments of the book is the moment she realises she’s in love rather than a crush. The development in this book is so so SO fab. 
The pace is also brilliant. I didn’t find the beginning too long or the ending too rushed. The plot played out nicely and events happened in lovely pattern rather than randomly. When I got to the end, I didn’t feel unsatisfied - wanting more or thinking it was too much, I felt like everything that needed to happen did. I loved where it ended.

Overall this book is wonderful. It’s romantic, cute and really gives you the feeling of being in love. There are moments where you laugh out loud and moments where you cringe so much you have to read through your fingers. Totally relatable and hilarious. I won’t stop recommending this book to anyone. A joy to read.

5 stars.

What did you think of Anna and the French Kiss? :)

-Molly

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Review: Smart by Kim Slater

Review also available on my blog!



"I found Jean’s friend dead in the river. His name was Colin Kirk. He was a homeless man, but he still wanted to live."

There’s been a murder, but the police don’t care. It was only a homeless old man after all.
Kieran cares. He’s made a promise, and when you say something out loud, that means you’re going to do it, for real. He’s going to find out what really happened. To Colin. And to his grandma, who just stopped coming round one day. It’s a good job Kieran’s a master of observation, and knows all the detective tricks of the trade.


But being a detective is difficult when you’re Kieran Woods. When you’re amazing at drawing but terrible at fitting in. And when there are dangerous secrets everywhere, not just outside, but under your own roof. - Goodreads


Title: Smart
Author: Kim Slater
Genre: Young adult-mystery-contemporary
Published: June 5th 2014
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating4 of 5 starsBuy fromThe Book Depository


Hi guys!
Before I actually review this book can I just say, ABSOLUTE COVER LOVE. WOW. When Macmillan contacted me, there wasn’t much info on the press release so I said yes mainly because I wanted this fabulous cover on my shelf. Here are a few pictures I took of my copy:


imageimageimage

Okay back to the review. So the blurb did not give much away about this book apart from a teenager trying to solve the murder of a homeless man. I was expecting a run of the mill murder mystery with teens solving crimes (kind of like Secret Seven and Famous Five). Which is why, within minutes of starting to read I was surprised by the narrator. Kieran is an autistic boy in year nine who loves CSI and wants to be a journalist. He’s very observant and as you read on you discover that he is really bright as well. I love his narrative voice, it’s so simple and innocent that it gives everything he says a kind of poetic beauty and adds realism to this book. He is a brilliant artist and loves the art by L.S. Lowry - his descriptions of the feelings evoked from it are lovely. Kieran is a wonderful character and his first person narrative voices really makes this book unique and charming.

I was also pleasantly surprised at the depth into which this book went. Although at first from Kieran’s childish viewpoint you think that it will be a book for younger readers, you soon realise that Slater is using Kieran’s wonderfully innocent voice to comment on the heart-breaking abuse he and his Mum have to suffer daily. With heavy themes like animal abuse, domestic abuse, child abuse, prejudice, racism and bullying and with a narrator like Kieran this book is more than Kieran solving a murder - it has depth, poetic beauty and topical significance. 

The ending is really wonderful. The final line links delightfully to the title as people finally realise that although Kieran has been repeatedly called insults like “retard” that he is actually incredibly smart and talented.

Overall, a beautifully heart-warming book with a surprising depth and a brilliant narrative voice. Highly recommend for an easy, quick read. Gorgeous.

4 stars.

What did you think of Smart if you’ve read it? Were you surprised? :)

-Molly

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Review also available on my blog!


Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more - she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life. Without Wren Cath is completely on her own and totally outside her comfort zone. She’s got a surly room-mate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words … 

And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone. Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible … - Goodreads

Title: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Young adult-romance-contemporary
Published: January 30th 2014
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Source: Received an ARC from My Kinda Book in exchange for an honest review. (late review!)
My rating3 of 5 stars 
The Book Depository

Hey guys!

I know I’m a bit late to jump on the Fangirl bandwagon. With everybody raving about it I went into this book with very high expectations. Even with the odds against it, in my view, I did enjoy Fangirl. However, although the book was good, I did find it lacking some things.

I’ll start with the negatives. At the end of each chapter there was an extract from either the Simon Snow books (the fictional books which the protagonist, Cath, fangirls over) or from Cath’s fanfiction of these books. When I first heard about extracts being used in a review I read before the book, I was really excited and interested in how Rowell would utilise them. The problem, for me, is that the extracts, particularly from the Simon Snow books, seemed completely irrelevant to the book. I mean, once you’ve grasped that Simon Snow is meant to be Harry Potter you don’t really care about tiny, irrelevant extracts from it. Cath’s fanfiction, although more relevant as it gives the reader an insight into how her mind works, does seem detached from the main story. It would have been better if, say, the Simon Snow extracts gave some message that reflected the previous chapter, or how Cath felt. Or if the extracts were from Cath’s updates of her main fic Carry On, Simon and we could see how her fic developed as she developed. Even the extracts from fics written years before this book is set could have been used to contrast how Cath writes alone and how she writes with Wren. But none of this happened in any of the extracts and I had to force myself to read them at the end of each chapter, hoping they became relevant. I asked my sister about it and she said that when she read Fangirl she just skipped over the extracts.

The ending was disappointing for me. There was a steady build up to the release of the eighth Simon Snow book and the anticipation to finishCarry On, Simon. But the ending kind of flopped for me. This could be because Rowell didn’t want to give the book a sense of finality so she could return to the world later, but I still would have liked more information on how the eight book affected Cath, how she finished Carry On, Simonand just generally a bit more of a closed ending considering this is a stand-alone.

But the thing that bugged me most about this book is how narrow its perspective is. When you tackle something like fandom (particularly if fandoms are close to your heart like mine) and name your book Fangirl, you’re taking on a massive thing. There are hundreds of fandoms and hundreds of fanpeople(?) and each person in that fandom has something they enjoy/contribute e.g making videos/graphics, writing fanfiction, writing songs, cosplay etc. Inevitably some people are going to be disappointed. When I heard that Fangirl was a YA book about fandom I was expecting all this to be incorporated. So when I discovered it was just about fanfiction I was kind of disappointed. I think the most important thing about fandoms and fangirls is the sense of community, support and understanding you get. The main downfall for me was that Fangirl had no real sense of fandom community and was focused on Cath individually. There was nothing about Cath talking to other fangirls, or interacting with anybody online. We all have a few people who we talk to regularly online and perhaps even consider friends. I would have expected somebody like Cath, like ME, would be talking lots to online friends about a big experience like university. I also wanted there to be a more universal view of the fandom, more fanart, more videos, graphics, cosplay, songs etc. Let me reiterate. I enjoyed Fangirl a lot. But I think when you sell a book as Fangirl and being about fandom you need to make it more elaborate. Fangirls don’t just write fanfiction. We communicate and socialise with other people online. Frequently. I felt like Fangirl stuck to the fanfiction but didn’t expand. Which isn’t bad, but if you sell a book as a book about a fangirl, I expected…more fangirling.

However, that being said, Fangirl was a lovely book. Everyone has different opinions about what is most important in a book: plot, setting, description, dialogue. For me, I think it’s the characters. Even if the plot is mindblowingly good, if the characters are rubbish then the plot doesn’t work and the book fails for me. I loved the characters in Fangirl. I have social anxiety and hearing about Cath’s nerves about university (e.g. going to the dining hall/finding a seat) is something I know I’ll get nervous about too. Reading this so close to uni with a protagonist so like me was almost reassuring me that uni will be okay. Cath’s only downside was the fact she handed in fanfiction as her own work and got upset when her teacher called it plagiarism. What else did she expect?? That aside Cath is a lovely and relatable character. I also loved Wren and the adorable (and refreshingly understanding) Levi. But my favourite has to be Reagan. I love her character as she is so real. She’s spiky but sweet and I think it’s great how she doesn’t try to understand Cath but accepts her.

Overall, Fangirl is a wonderful book about coming of age and facing scary but inevitable experiences like university. I was just disappointed by the fact it was sold as Fangirl but only incorporated one element of fandom and no real sense of the vital community that fandoms produce.

3 stars.

How did you find Fangirl? :)

-Molly