Friday, 27 February 2015

BOOK REVIEW: The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson

Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Page

Goodreads Summary:

Seventeen-year-old Lennie Walker, bookworm and band geek, plays second clarinet and spends her time tucked safely and happily in the shadow of her fiery older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey dies abruptly, Lennie is catapulted to center stage of her own life - and, despite her nonexistent history with boys, suddenly finds herself struggling to balance two. Toby was Bailey's boyfriend; his grief mirrors Lennie's own. Joe is the new boy in town, a transplant from Paris whose nearly magical grin is matched only by his musical talent. For Lennie, they're the sun and the moon; one boy takes her out of her sorrow, the other comforts her in it. But just like their celestial counterparts, they can't collide without the whole wide world exploding.

**Spoiler Free Review**

There has been a lot of hype for this book on both Goodreads and Youtube, and now I know why! This is one of the most beautiful contemporary novels I've ever read. I love that although there is a love story in this, the focus still manages to remain on the complexities of grief and loss rather than becoming another novel that revolves around a love triangle. It is stunningly beautiful and so hard to express just how wonderfully written it is!

Jandy Nelson manages to effectively and realistically depict grief and all the forms it can take. I really felt the loss that Lennie is suffering from and, by the end, I really missed Bailey as well, even though we never meet her! I absolutely loved the character building in this book. Every character felt extremely three-dimensional and real. I loved the Gran and Big and their utter madness made the family seem so real and beautiful. Although I really disliked Toby and (partly) Lennie to begin with because of their actions, they grew on me, and even their actions felt believable and understandable to me by the end. Nelson manages to portray so well how grief can land you in situations you wouldn't expect to find yourself in and how to deal with them. Lennie was such a fantastic character to read from. A girl that felt perfectly ordinary albeit an awkward teenager, who finally grows into herself. It also becomes an amazing coming-of-age story whilst simultaneously dealing with so many other issues

This is one of the most beautifully, lyrically written books I've ever read. Jandy Nelson describes everything with a picturesque beauty that can so easily be imagined. I love the garden and the descriptions made it feel so unbelievably vivid and real.

Oh and the love story in this. was. fantastic. The book wasn't even really focused on it too much but it was so well written and believable and I love that! The poetry which was scattered throughout was fantastic and painted such an interesting picture of the past and present, and also the inner thoughts of Lennie. It worked so brilliantly throughout the book and really added such uniqueness to the story. The ending was so beautiful and perfect and I have absolutely fallen in love with these characters.

The realism merges with surrealism and a little bit of the fantastical to create one of the most beautifully written reads I've picked up in a long time.

I only have two very minor complaints about this book, and one of them is more of a warning to future readers. One is that I just wanted more, more stories about Lennie and her family, her past and her future. There were a couple of unanswered questions but I know they were left unanswered for a reason.

Secondly, I would not recommend the ebook version of this book. if you want to read it then get a physical copy from the library or bookshop. The ebook version was no good to read the poetry on at all. The poetry appears in small snippets between chapters on photographs of sweet wrappers and cups, and the handwriting was extremely small. I use a kobo to read and this meant constantly having to zoom in and out (which is a pain on the kobo!). Zooming in by 200% just to read the poem and then turning to page to find three giant words of the next chapter on my screen was a bit frustrating. This may be different on kindle but I just thought I'd warn fellow kobo readers! So yes, if you want to read this fantastic book (which I highly recommend you do, especially if you enjoy John Green and Rainbow Rowell's books) then I suggest picking up a copy as soon as you can, because it is one of the best books I've read this year by a mile!

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Top Five Wednesday | Best Character Arcs/Development

I decided to opt out of last week's Top Five Wednesday as I was extremely busy with work and wasn't too interested on the topic, but this week I'm back! Just in case anyone is new to this. Top Five Wednesday is an idea created by Lainey, or Gingerreadslainey on youtube. She creates weekly topics for bloggers and youtubers to talk more about different aspects of their favourite books. The group, which lists the monthly topics, can be found here!

So this week's Top Five Wednesday is the Top Five Best Character Arcs/Development. I'm quite excited about this topic as I think character development is one of the most important aspects of a novel; it creates likeable and believable characters who we never forget. So these are my top five!: 

5) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games Trilogy
I just love the way Katniss develops over the course of the three books. In such a short amount of time her character gets pushed from being a small person who wants to just run away from the world and disappear to someone being in the spotlight and leading, even though she doesn't want to. Although her personality and views don't vary too much throughout the books, she embodies the notion of PTSD by the end and portrays a person who has been through turmoil but survived to some different, if not better. In such a short amount of reading time she becomes one of the most powerful characters in dystopian fiction.

4) Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles

Ahhhh Kvothe. Ahhh this series! The Kingkiller Chronicles is one of the most unique fantasy series I've ever read. They tell the story of a man named Kvothe from his childhood onwards and the way his character gradually develops is so utterly unique and amazing that I can't help but love it. Because the books cover such short periods of time in a lot of space they have  time develop the character in a way where you haven't even noticed he's changed until you look back, and I think that's pretty incredible. His character grows from a small child, dependent on his loving family, to the innkeeper we see at the very start of the book. Their characters differ so much that you can't even believe it's the same person until the gaps are filled. Kvothe is witty, intelligent and downright funny at times despite the hardships he goes through and is one of the most believable characters I've ever read.

3) Nathaniel from The Bartimaeus Trilogy
I'm not going to lie, it's been a good ten years since I read this trilogy, which I worshipped as a child (and I really need to get around to re-reading it again!) But the most vivid thing I remember (other than the hilarious Bartimaeus) was the immense character development of Nathaniel throughout the three novels. He changes so much from the child in the first novel and develops into a person you wouldn't believe.
2) Tessa Gray from The Infernal Devices Trilogy
This is one of those character developments that just needed to happen. The first time I read Clockwork Angel I just didn't like it very much and I think it was mainly because of Tessa and the way she saw things. Although she was meant to be this strong yet weak-seeming girl, she just grated on me and seemed fairly weak throughout. However, having finished the series this year, I've discovered how much she develops in the other two books. It's great to see a character flourish and prove you wrong, and that's exactly what she did. She became so strong and interesting by the end that I couldn't help love her. Especially at the very end of Clockwork Princess.

1) Bilbo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and The Hobbit

Okay so my number one is totally cheating because I've got two characters here but I'm just encompassing hobbits in general to this one! But mostly Bilbo and Sam. Hobbits are easily one of the more fascinating races that Tolkein created. He made a race of people who would seem so weak to us, so strong. You have Bilbo in The Hobbit who wanted nothing more than a relaxing life but once he goes on an adventure, he flourishes and becomes a hero who would do anything for his friends. Even in the Lord of the Rings, he's still going on adventures, right until the end of his days. And Sam, oh Sam. From Samwise Gamgee to Samwise the Brave. That is his character development summed up in a nutshell. The hobbit who just wanted to help but didn't want any part in the bigger things and who ends up being the most important of them all. His loyalty and determination is the only thing that gets Frodo to take the last steps of his journey. And in the end he changes so much but is still that incredible hobbit who just wanted to help Mr Frodo.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Bound by Prophecy by Melissa Wright

Bound by Prophecy by Melissa Wright
#1 The Descendants Series

Genre: Romance/Paranormal/Dystopian (?)

My Rating: ★★

Goodreads Page

Goodreads Summary:

Twenty-two-year-old Aern is done watching his brother destroy the only thing that matters. He never wanted to take Morgan’s place among council, never wanted to rule their hidden world. But when the key to the prophecy is found, a young girl named Brianna whom Morgan will destroy, Aern knows he has to take action.

What he really wants, is for things to go back to normal. But now he’s kidnapped a girl, and his brother’s men are after him. His only hope is to join with the Division, but they have plans of their own, and it’s the last thing Aern is willing to do.
Emily just wants her sister back. She doesn't care about the prophecy, or realize what’s at stake. But when she goes after Aern, the truth of the matter uncoils, and Brianna isn't the only one who’s in danger.

Suddenly, they’re at the center of a secret war, and unless they can work together, they’ll both have a sacrifice too big to make.

**Spoiler Free Review**

I decided to pick this book up after Ben (From BenjaminofTomes) made it his bookclub book of the month. The plot definitely intrigued me as, although prophecies are often a bit overdone in books, this one sounded different to others and I thought it had a lot of potential.

Unfortunately, I do feel like this potential was somewhat wasted. This was the most vague book I think I have ever read. I was just left with a ridiculous amount of questions. I couldn't tell you where the book was set, what the world is like, why things are happening, or even what the main character's motives were and it's in a first person narrative. I understand when a book likes to slowly build up the world around it, but in this there was no world building, just a plot which lacked a lot of sense because of it. It also stopped me from connecting to the characters because I didn't understand them or why they were doing things.

We only get to hear vague things about the prophecy and an ancient language, as well as two groups called Council and The Division, but they seemed to blend at some point, which left me confused. I don't understand if this is set in the future, who this race of people are (if they are a different race?), what their powers are or why? Why? Why is anything happening??

One thing that did really bother me more than this though was the fact that even in a first person perspective where the main character knows a lot, they didn't let the reader know anything. Sometimes two characters would have a mental conversation. For example 'I willed her to understand what I meant, and she did', whilst the reader was left saying 'WHAT? What did she understand from that look??' 

Despite all of this I do see that there is a good story hidden amongst the questions, it could have even been great with some more context and background thrown in. I did just get left feeling confused an awful lot and the ending felt quite rushed. The main plus I have of this book was that it was a quick read, but I would've preferred a longer read with some more background to it! I am going to continue the series (mostly because I bought the trilogy on kobo for £2.50)  but also because I'm hoping the second and third books will explain more. I just hope that this book wasn't left deliberately vague to intrigue people into buying the sequels, because books written well and in detail can lure readers back much better than a vague one!

Top Five Wednesday | Books That Take Place in Your Country/Region/Area

This is one topic that I thought I was going to find pretty difficult as I felt like most books are set in the USA rather than the UK, and when they are set in the UK it's usually Scotland or London or somewhere most people have heard of. I'm originally from the North East of England so I was sure it was going to be difficult to find books from there but it was easy once I looked. I had forgotten how many of my favourite books have taken place close-ish to where I'm from. None of them are set in my home town but a couple are very close! Some of these books just set in England rather than specifically the North East, as I thought they deserved a mention as well! Here we go!

1. Dracula by Bram Stoker

Dracula is one of my favourite novels of all time. This classical horror is full of suspense and mystery, and keeps the reader hooked from the start. This is probably the book I could find which is (partly) set closest to where I live. The book is mostly set in Transylvania (obviously), London and Whitby. Whitby is about forty minutes from where I'm from and it's a beautiful seaside town with a haunting abbey. It's full of history and you can see so many places which Bram Stoker described in his beautifully worded novel. I recommend both seeing Whitby, at least once, and definitely picking up Dracula to read the most famous vampire novel.  

(A photograph I took in Whitby not too long ago!)

2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J. K. Rowling 

Okay, so this is a really obvious one for anyone who lives in England. I know I don't live in Surrey but I do live in London, fairly near Kings Cross, at the moment. Also I've been over the viaduct on the Hogwart's Express (in Scotland), so I think this counts. Naturally it's one of my favourite childhood books and it'll always feel close home!

3. The Magician's Nephew by C. S. Lewis

The Magician's Nephew is my absolute favourite of The Chronicles of Narnia, and I'm so sad they've never made a film for it. I know most of it is set in Narnia but it's main characters are from Victorian London, and a fair bit of the story takes place there. This is one of the first ever fantasy book series I read, and it will always remain one of my absolute favourites! If anyone hasn't read these books yet (or even just haven't read this particular one) then I definitely recommend going to pick them up because they are fantastic.  

4. The Secret Garden by Francis Hodgson Burnett 
 This is, yet again, another of my childhood favourites. I remember my Grandad lending this book to me when I was about six and I absolutely fell in love with it. It's set in Yorkshire, so it's very close to home! This is a children's classic about a young girl who gets sent to live in Yorkshire, with her Uncle, after becoming orphaned. She starts of a spoiled child who attempts to discover the two biggest mysteries at the house she's been sent to live in. It's such a beautiful story and a must read for anyone who hasn't already! I'd also recommend seeing the film which has Maggie Smith in it!

5. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

This is another book set in and around the Yorkshire countryside. A very famous classic which I know most people have heard. I first read this gothic romance when I was about 15 and I really enjoyed it. It's a very powerful story and it portrays human nature in such a realistic light. Emily Bronte was a fantastic writer. I know a lot of people are intimidated by classics but I would definitely recommend giving this book a chance as it's an incredible story!

A Picture I took on the North Yorkshire Moors last year.

So, these are my favourite books which take place in  my country/region! Let me know if you've been to any of these places or have read any of these books. Also feel free to share the links to your Top Five Wednesday below and I'll check it out!

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Top Five Wednesday | Futuristic Books

Top 5 Wednesday is a feature from GingerReadsLainey where you list your top 5 of a topic listed in the Goodreads Group. This week is our Top 5 Futuristic Books!

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

I have to say, at first, I really didn't like this novella, mostly because of the strange slang language that was used throughout, which was quite difficult to get used to, but also because of the disturbing things that occur within the book. However, by the end of the book, Burgess' writing is so powerful and makes you think so much about society, that it really changed my opinion, Set in a dystopian future world, it follows a gang of youths who take drugs and commit extremely violent crimes, and the States' attempt to reform and control them. Burgess' writing is so interesting and the story is so short yet remains incredibly powerful.

1984 by George Orwell

1984 will always remain one of my favourite novels. Although it's not exactly futuristic these days, since 1984 was about 30 years ago, it will always be one of the most interesting dystopians I've ever read. The story follows a man living in this world where the State controls everything: what people do, how they live, their thoughts, and even history. Orwell's social commentary on the way society is changing so that everyone is being watched and controlled is so incredibly fascinating, not least because some of the things feared in this book, have come true. It's a chilling prediction on the way society could turn out to be and a definite read for any dystopian fans.

The Host by Stephenie Meyer
The Host is a very different novel to those I've already mentioned. The book is set in the future where Earth has been invaded by alien host-like creatures, or 'souls', which inhabit human bodies and take over the planet. The book follows a soul named Wanderer who receives a body but the mind of the girl she's taken over begins to fight back, leading her to discover human survivors. Although it's a science fiction book, Meyer focuses on the survival of humans rather than the alien species, which I found really interesting. It's absolutely nothing like Twilight and is written nothing like it either (if that caused a prejudice for anyone). I loved this book when I first read it and it's stuck with me since. I highly recommend it to anyone who's not yet picked it up!

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

So this is book that probably everyone has read by now, but if you haven't then you need to go read it now!! Ahhh. This book. This book. This book is just full of nostalgia. It is chock full of 80s references, in particular video games. If you're into video games and/or grew up in the 80s and/or any type of geek, you will adore this book as much as I did. This science fiction book is set only a few decades in the future, in a pretty much dystopian world where people escape reality through a virtual console called Oasis. People go to school through it, socialise on it and game on it. The creator of Oasis left easter eggs throughout this virtual world and, if found, they lead straight to his fortune. The story follows a young boy who is hooked on finding these easter eggs and studies 80s culture in order to do so. This book is just incredibly clever, witty and full of likeable characters. It's the most incredible science fiction book I've ever read.

The Running Man by Stephen King

I'm always surprised by how few people know about this book. Written by Stephen King, under his pseudonym 'Richard Bachman', this book is a forerunner of The Hunger Games. Set in a future of extreme poverty, where the poor are seen as nothing but rodents, the book follows a man named Ben Richards, who's daughter becomes extremely ill. In order to get money for her medical bills he enlists in a game show where the objective is to survive. It's a fantastic, gripping story and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoyed The Hunger Games or Battle Royale!

So those are my Top Five Futuristic books! What are yours?