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? :)


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? :)


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:


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? :)


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:


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? :)


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? :)


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Review: The Penguin Book of Classical Myths by Jenny March

Review also available on my blog!

The greatest legends of all time, splendidly retold

The myths of ancient Greece and Rome are the most dramatic and unforgettable tales of love, war, heroism, and betrayal ever told. Whether it’s Icarus flying too close to the sun, Prometheus stealing fire from the gods, or the tragedy of Oedipus, their characters have inspired art, literature, plays, and films. Now, renowned classics scholar Jenny March presents a dazzling reinterpretation of these time-honored myths. Laid out in eighteen clear chapters and providing the origins, development, and interpretation of each myth, this is the essential guide to the stories that have shaped our world. - Goodreads

Title: The Penguin Book of Classical Myths
Author: Jenny March
Genre: non-fiction-mythology
Published: October 27th 2009
Publisher: Penguin Books
Source: Gift from my Grandma
My rating5 of 5 stars

Buy from The Book Depository

Hi guys!

If any of you pay attention to my posts then you’ll realise that this book is a bit different to what I normally review as it is non-fiction. In my policy page it even says no non-fiction books. However, some of you might have also realised that I absolutely ADORE classics - particularly Greco-Roman mythology. So when I saw this book (especially its gorgeous cover) I knew I had to have it. (Thank God for generous Grandmas!)

For a non-fiction book, which I normally find dull, slow and hard to read, I tore through this book on the 4 hour journey to Cambridge. I know a little about mythology from my Classics class and the Percy Jackson books but not to this extent and detail. Although there are lots of names and families which are quite hard to pronounce, the way March writes is so accessible and I found it relatively easy to read. The illustrations throughout really helped me visualise the stories. Those in the middle especially were so bright and vivid and I just loved them.

The structure was really helpful as well. The introduction gives the myths context and gives the reader lots of information. From then on it talks about creation, then the individual gods and then the myths. This means that even if your prior knowledge is minimal then you have a good basis of information before you start the myths allowing March to go into superb detail and offer different interpretations rather than just the most ‘popular’. The myths are then told in chronological order and often intertwine with one another so that even though this is a non-fiction book, it gives a really sense of story-telling narrative.

Overall, a wonderfully crafted book with a clear structure and easy to read style. Gorgeous illustrations and incredible detail, I highly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in mythology. I will definitely be referring to this book in the future!

5 stars.

Have any of you read this book, or have an interest in Greco-Roman Mythology? :)


Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Review: Anywhere (Nowhere #2) by Jon Robinson

'We're miles from anywhere, and we don't have a clue where we're going'
Deep in a snow-covered forest Alyn, Jes, Ryan and Elsa have escaped from prison. Now they’re being hunted.
They quickly realise they have a special talent - they can control the world around them.
Now they must use this skill to stop themselves falling into greater danger. But can they master it before their deadly enemies close in - for good? -Goodreads.
Title: Anywhere
Author: Jon Robinson
Genre: Young adult-dystopian-action-mystery
Published: July 3rd 2014
Publisher: Puffin
Source: Received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
My rating4 of 5 stars
The Book Depository
Hey guys!
When I got the email from the lovely people at Puffin that Anywhere was available to review, I was so excited to reply as I really loved Nowhere when I read it last summer. With such high expectations, Anywhere could have easily let me down. Fortunately, I loved it, perhaps even more than Nowhere!
The story starts off right where Nowhere ends so if you haven’t read it in a while, I’d suggest rereading the end of Nowhere to refresh your memory (that’s what I did).
One of the dangers of continuing a series right where the previous book ends is that the two books can blur. It’s possible that the plotline sticks with the same structure/ideas/themes that the first book did and there’s nothing to distinguish the sequel as a book in it’s own right. Which is why I liked in Anywhere that almost straight away the plot develops with the introduction of the teenagers’ (to quote the synopsis) ‘special talent’ (henceforth called by its real name - the Ability). This really moved this book away from the first one but kept the key links.
Now the Ability, I really liked. YA books with teenagers that have special powers are all the rage these days but I love the originality that Robinson uses in this Ability. It’s not so obvious and sci-fi as you might expect and the subtlety of it is something that I particularly enjoyed. Also, the dangers is presents… (read the book to find out what I mean by THAT!)
The characters, as in Nowhere, are fab. My particular favourites in this book are Stephen, Julian, and Pyra. Stephen is a world class psychopath. Although with Julian and even Susannah there are shades of gray, it’s really pleasing to have a pure evil character such as Stephen. A real joy to read about his schemes and plots. Julian is perhaps my favourite character is this book (a shock to those of you who’ve read Nowhere). This is mainly because of his reaction to the Ability and the flashback into his past. This discovery really humanises him and although there are still some mean elements to him, when compared with Stephen, you can get to like him. I love the complexity of his character. Finally Pyra is just really badass and I generally love badass female characters. But, like all the characters in this series, you keep trying to guess, ‘are they really a good guy?’, ‘what’s his agenda?’, ‘are they trustworthy?’ etc. I really love how this book keeps you guessing and nothing is certain.
There are lots of hints as to what could be developed in the final bookSomewhere (out next year aaarrrrgghh). Something unique about Alyn and the consequences of this, Stephen and his plans and what exactly is in that locked room?? All things which mean I cannot WAIT for Somewhere next year! Highly recommend this series for fans of mystery/conspiracy books :)
4 stars. A highly mysterious, gripping sequel that will keep you guessing until the very end!
What did you think of Anywhere and of the series?
Read my interview with the author Jon Robinson here!
Thanks for reading :)