Book Review: It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Ned Vizzini)


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Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Pages: 444
Release Date: May 1st 2006
Summary (From Goodreads):


Ambitious New York City teenager Craig Gilner is determined to succeed at life – which means getting into the right high school to get into the right job. But once Craig aces his way into Manhattan’s Executive Pre-Professional High School, the pressure becomes unbearable. He stops eating and sleeping until, one night, he nearly kills himself.

Craig’s suicidal episode gets him checked into a mental hospital, where his new neighbors include a transsexual sex addict, a girl who has scarred her own face with scissors, and the self-elected President Armelio. There, Craig is finally able to confront the sources of his anxiety.
Ned Vizzini, who himself spent time in a psychiatric hospital, has created a remarkably moving tale about the sometimes unexpected road to happiness.
Review:
I made the mistake of Googling this book before I read it and found out the author committed suicide not long after the book was published and it made it all the more sad and poignant to read.

I struggled to get into this at first because of the dialogue, but I put this down to the fact that I have never been an American teenage boy. And after the first few pages of boy talk, when Craig is on his own, I found myself connecting better.

Craig’s illness is really relatable and it really shows that depression isn’t something abnormal or not understandable: it’s an illness with symptoms like anything else, and more people need to realise this. It’s also easy to see how life puts on these unnecessary pressures as well. My younger sister is 14 and cries every day about her GCSE exams, because she thinks if she doesn’t do well she won’t go to uni and she won’t get a good job and that’s her life over. It’s similar to Craig’s fears and I find it heartbreaking that she’s worrying about that at that age.

I thought the book started a little slow: I was expecting the majority of the book to be set in the hospital, but it took a while to get there, and I didn’t understand the significance of some parts (it came to me later though). I enjoyed Craig’s point of view as a narrator but didn’t find it easy to connect with him sometimes: his obsession with getting some girl action was a little annoying, especially considering his mental health position and where it got him.

I thought the characters were all very fleshed out and colourful, especially the ones inside the hospital – although this sometimes worked against them, as I felt they could be a little over the top some time.

The ending gave me conflicting feelings. I thought it did suggest a little that with a positive attitude and a new girlfriend you could make your depression better, which isn’t really something I believe. But I liked the fact that Craig wasn’t ‘cured’ as such, just getting into a better place.

Once this book got going, I really enjoyed it, but all the way through I couldn’t stop thinking about how sad it is that Ned Vizzini lost his own battle with depression. I hope his light hearted but poignant book has helped others with their own battles.

My Verdict:



Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Book Review: Crow Moon (Anna McKerrow)

Publisher: Quercus

Pages: 384

Release Date: March 5th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Danny is a fun-loving 16-year-old looking for a father figure and falling in love with a different girl every day. He certainly doesn’t want to follow in his mum’s witchy footsteps.

Just as his community is being threatened by gangs intent on finding a lucrative power source to sell to the world, Danny discovers he is stunningly powerful. And when he falls for Saba, a gorgeous but capricious girl sorceress, he thinks maybe the witch thing might not be such a bad idea…

But what cost will Danny pay as, with his community on the brink of war, he finds that love and sorcery are more dangerous than he ever imagined?

Wickedness and passion combine in this coming-of-age adventure.

Review:

This book has been one of the most talked about releases this year and I was so happy when I finally got my hands on it. And then worried. Because when something’s been built up so much, it’s easy to be disappointed.

Happily, this wasn’t the case with Crow Moon.

The scene setting was perfect: there was no overload of information, but there was enough for you to understand the world: split into two, the Redworld, filled with gangs and fighting over the world’s last scraps of fuel, and the Greenworld, an environmentally friendly community split into covensteads and led by witches.

Danny lives in the Greenworld and his mother is head witch of one of the covensteads. He’s a great character and reads like a very realistic teenage boy (or how I imagine a teenage boy to think and feel at least, having never been one myself). I liked the idea that he wasn’t really sold on Greenworld and witchcraft at the beginning. If he’d been more gung-ho about it I think it would have been less convincing, but the fact that he has doubts and knows the Greenworld is flawed made it all the more believable.

The book is diverse and challenges some cultural ideas on witches – Danny is a male witch, in a world heavily dominated by females. While the Greenworld is supposed to be ‘colour-blind’ Danny still feels singled out because of the colour of his skin, which was another indicator of their less than perfect world and mirrors our own imperfect society.

All of the characters were wonderfully imagined and fleshed out, but one of my favourites was Saba. I was a bit wary of her at first, expecting some kind of Manic Pixie Dream Girl, but I really enjoyed the flaws in her character and how Danny’s opinion of her hanged throughout the book. Roach is also a great villain because what he’s proposing doesn’t sound like an evil master plan – it actually could make sense, and it’s his way of doing things that really makes him the villain. Melz was another highlight and I really can’t wait to see where her story goes in book two.

While I enjoyed the novel all the way through, it was towards the end when I really started to love it. The unconventional love triangle between Danny-Saba-Tom took a dark turn which I loved and had me yelling at Danny not to do what he was about to. The ending became very sobering at times, but also had some fantastical elements that were really incredible. McKerrow paints beautiful pictures of Devon and Cornwall and her mythology and goddesses are all really well imagined.

As the first book in a series, I think the ending was spot on. While part of the main story line for that book was finished off, giving closure, there’s enough cliffhangers and intrigue to leaving you yearning for the next book. Bring on March 2016 and the sequel!

My Verdict:

4

Top Five… Witches

After reading the fabulous Crow Moon by Anna McKerrow last week, I’ve decided this week’s post should be about fabulous witches. I’m defining witch as someone who calls them self that, so not necessarily a woman (but also not magical people who call themselves wizards etc). 
5

Serafina Pekkala 
His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman)
She says some of the most beautiful things in these books, and has a love story that gets more tragic the more you think about it. I can’t imagine staying young and watching my husband and son’s lives pass by as quick as a dream. And even with all that tragedy, she still manages to be one of my favourite characters in the series.
4

Danny Prentice
Crow Moon (Anna McKerrow)
Probably one of the very few male witches I’ve read about, Danny seems pretty sceptical of his powers and witchcraft in general at first, but he goes on to perform some pretty incredible magic (some of the end scenes are so magical!) and accept himself for the strong witch he is. 
3

Mildred Hubble
The Worst Witch series (Jill Murphy)
So she may not be the best witch in the world, but she’s probably one of the most lovable. One of the original klutzy protagonists with a heart of gold, Mildred’s antics kept me entertained through reading and watching her TV show (and this very old film that no one seems to mention, but has Tim Curry in and is amazing!)
2
Hermione Granger
Harry Potter series (J.K. Rowling)
I don’t think you can really do a list like this without slipping Hermione in there somewhere. She’s insanely smart and is constantly proving herself in a world dominated by male wizards and pure bloods. 
1

The Grand High Witch
The Witches (Roald Dahl)
Oo even now that picture gives me shivers. Maybe she isn’t quite as horrendous in the book as she is in the film, but the Grand High Witch is pretty fearsome and her hatred of children genuinely scared me when I was younger.

Book Review: The Novice – Summoner Book One (Taran Matharu)

 *I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

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Publisher: Hodder Children’s Books
Pages: 400
Release Date: May 5th 2015
Summary (From Goodreads):

When blacksmith apprentice Fletcher discovers that he has the ability to summon demons from another world, he travels to Adept Military Academy. There the gifted are trained in the art of summoning. Fletcher is put through grueling training as a battlemage to fight in the Hominum Empire’s war against orcs. He must tread carefully while training alongside children of powerful nobles. The power hungry, those seeking alliances, and the fear of betrayal surround him. Fletcher finds himself caught in the middle of powerful forces, with only his demon Ignatius for help.

As the pieces on the board maneuver for supremacy, Fletcher must decide where his loyalties lie. The fate of an empire is in his hands. The Novice is the first in a trilogy about Fletcher, his demon Ignatius, and the war against the Orcs. 

Review:

I’ve heard this book described as a cross between Harry Potter and Pokemon, so loving both of these, I was sold straight away.
It was easy to get into and the scene was set very well. The first few chapters, set in protagonist Fletcher’s home of Pelt were actually some of my favourite bits. There was a really gentle introduction to the world and characters that completely involved me in the world from the start.
For me though, it started going downhill a bit when Fletcher went to the academy. All the subtly of the first few chapters was suddenly gone and I felt bombarded by information. I understood why: there were a lot of thing that needed explaining to both Fletcher and the reader, and a school setting is a great place for that, but it just didn’t come across very naturally.
I loved the demons, especially Ignatius, who quite often reminded me of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon (so completely adorable, basically!) However when it came to explaining classes of demons it all felt a bit technical, like learning the rules to a complicated board game. There were many parts where I felt like I’d like to play this story out as a computer game rather than read it as a novel.
Fletcher as a character was likeable enough but I sometimes found him a bit too good. I liked that he wasn’t the cleverest of the most gifted, but when it came to things like morals (like treating dwarves and elves the same as humans) he annoyed me as he felt a little holier than thou. The other characters felt a little cliché, and the nobles vs. commoners things felt very predictable and a little too OTT to read comfortably.
Overall, this was an enjoyable enough read but the characters felt too predictable and flat for me to really make a connection with them. There’s an interesting storyline though and I would like to see where it goes next.

My Verdict:


I enjoyed – give it a read


Countdown to 7th May Blog Tour: Interview with Lucy Coats + GIVEAWAY

Today on the blog I’m really excited to have Lucy Coats as part of Jim’s Countdown to 7th May Blog Tour.
Lucy has written numerous books including picture books MG and YA fiction, but today we’re talking about her new YA book being released on 7th May: Cleo.

Cleo is a fast-paced re-imagining of Cleopatra’s life before she became the Pharaoh of legends. Check here for my review.

So, without further ado, here’s what Lucy had to say when I interviewed her about about Cleo
Hi Lucy, it’s great to have you here on my blog today. Your new book for young adults, Cleo tells the unknown story of Cleopatra, before she became the legendary figure that she is today. I’m going to kick off by asking you what made you want to tell that part of Cleopatra’s story?

 

About three years ago, I was reading a book about Cleopatra, and it occured to me that we know almost nothing about her life until she walks into recorded historical events as pharaoh. Basically, her early years are a great big hole in history – and there’s no greater gift to a writer than that.

Once I’d done a bit of digging, I found out Cleopatra had described herself as a living incarnation of the goddess Isis. Being a total mythology fanatic, that was the fact which lit a spark in my brain and made it start ticking away.

Writers always ask that ‘what if’ question – so I asked myself ‘what if Cleopatra really was helped to the throne by a goddess?’ Then I wondered how it would work to mix real history with a sprinkling of paranormal to explain how she became this amazing woman that we’re still talking about over two thousand years later? Her strong character must have been formed in that early part of her life – and immediately I had that thought, I was totally driven to tell that part of her story. The beginnings of Cleo were born in that moment.
How much of Cleo’s story is research based and how much was added in there by you?

 

That hole in history I just mentioned is pretty wide and deep. We don’t know exactly what year Cleo was born (maybe 60BC). We don’t even know for sure who her mother was either (possibly a concubine, a member of the pharaoh’s court – or maybe her own sister!). What IS certain is that her father was the pharaoh Ptolemy Auletes (the Flute Player), who got chucked out of Alexandria and exiled to Rome for spending too much money – and that she had three sisters (two of whom became pharaohs in place of their father), and two brothers.

So, to answer your question, there was a historical framework within which she existed – but no actual information about her. That gave a huge amount of leeway for me to imagine events in her life as I wanted them to happen. As long as I stuck to the known facts (and I researched her family and what they were up to at the time pretty intensively) then I was free to do more or less what I wanted to in terms of the story itself.
How did you find the voice for Cleo? It’s quite a bold step to give her such a modern-sounding voice – did you specifically want it that way or is that just how she came to you?

 

Thank goodness you asked – as I know a lot of people may be a bit puzzled by the way Cleo sounds. The thing is, we have no idea how the Ancient Egyptians would have talked, and I wasn’t ever going to write the book in formal court language!

When I started out, I was writing in third person. I got to twenty thousand words, and it was obvious to me that the voice wasn’t working at all. So I junked the whole thing and started again in first person. I could hear Cleo’s voice in my head right away – she just started talking to me like that, so I went with it.

As I was writing for teenagers, and Cleo is that age herself, I very much wanted her character to be accessible, to have the same sort of internal worries and fears about love and appearance and friendships that a modern teenager would have – except tuned to an Ancient Egyptian setting, obviously. I don’t think those very human concerns are things that change very much over the centuries.

You’re right, it was a bold step to give her a modern-sounding voice, and I know that may not be how everyone thinks Cleopatra would sound – but I really hope readers can get past that and understand that there IS no one definitive version of her. This is only my interpretation, and I stand by it proudly.

 

The setting for Cleo is obviously in Ancient Egypt – have you ever been to Egypt yourself? How much research did you have to do to recreate the places Cleo visits?

 

I have been to Egypt, but only to the Red Sea part, not the part where the book is set. I very much wanted to go back and sail down the Nile to get a proper feel for it, but sadly world events got in the way, and I was told it was too dangerous to do the kind of trip I was planning.

I’ve spent a LOT of time on research, though – I’m pretty obsessive about it, if truth be told, and have piles of books and a massive cache of weblinks to obscure writings on Ancient Egyptian life. Let’s not even get started about the time I’ve spent poring over maps of Alexandria, the Royal palace, the Nile and Google Earth-mapping the general topography of Egypt.

I wanted to make the settings as authentic as possible, so I went back to original sources where I could. Sometimes I had to stop myself, though. Researching is a bit like following a treasure trail – there’s always a new Fact of Great Usefulness to stumble across. I often have to give myself a shake and tell myself to get on with writing the damn book!

The gods and goddesses feature heavily in Cleo – did you always plan to make them a main part of your story?

 

Yes – myth geek that I am, that was always an essential element. The gods and goddesses got into every part of the Ancient Egyptians’ lives (and most certainly into their deaths, given the amazing household goods found in their graves, which they believed would go with them into the afterlife). I’ve just made them visible – to Cleo, at least – and able to act through their human intermediaries.

But I don’t believe in too much deus ex machina, so Cleo has to work things out on her own. She can’t rely on her patron goddess to fix things for her. It was important (and I hope character-building) for her to struggle to achieve what she needs to – and also that there be penalties for her straying off the path that has been set out for her. Power doesn’t come without price!
Cleo ends on one hefty cliffhanger – what made you decide to end her story there (for now)?

 

I know…I know☺. The answer is, Cleo had done what she needed to do for that particular bit of the story, and it just seemed the right place to stop. I’m mean like that <evil grin>. I’ve read so many books where I’m turning pages and shouting ‘Noooo! You CAN’T finish THERE!” at the writer – and for once I wanted the reader to shout at ME! Sorry (#notsorry).
What can we expect from the next installment in Cleo’s story? And when is it coming out?!

 

Well…it’s going to be called Chosen, and it’s coming in March 2016 (so not even a year to wait). I can’t tell you much, because *spoilers* but there’s going to be a lot of tension between Cleo and Khai (hot Librarian spy boy and the current love of her life, for those of you who’d like to know), an unexpected love story for Charm (Cleo’s best friend and body servant), and a meeting with someone who will feature largely in Cleo’s later life.

The setting moves away from Alexandria, and takes in the desert, the Great Green Sea (what the Ancient Egyptians called the Mediterranean) and Rome. Of course, there’s plenty of immortal action too. I’m just putting the final touches to the manuscript now, and I have to say, even I am very excited about it – and that’s having lived with it in my head for what seems like forever.
The cover for Cleo is really quite something (and actually one of the things that attracted me to it in the first place). Did you have much say on how that turned out? Is it how you imagined it would be or did you imagine something different?

 

A good cover is a treasure – and I’m so glad you like it. When I first saw it, my jaw literally dropped and I cried at its beauty (in a good way). The Orchard designer who worked on the book, Thy Bue, has done a stellar job, and I am so grateful to her. All I did was send my editor the Pinterest page I made for the book (you can see it here), and veto any pictures of pyramids – other than that, no input at all! I absolutely wasn’t expecting how it turned out – but I love it more than I can even tell you.  Luckily, everyone I’ve spoken to seems to feel the same way. I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t like it.

A lot of your other stories are picture books/for younger readers – what made you want to try writing for an older audience?

 

I write for pretty much all ages – last year I had a picture book out, this year it’s four books in my new middle-grade Beasts of Olympus series, an early reader and Cleo. I guess that’s a bit unusual, but it all helps keep my writing brain active.

I’ve written one novel before, for the 9-12 age-group, but when the idea for Cleo came along I knew at once it was for an older audience. As I read a lot of YA (especially UKYA), it seemed like the right place for my writing to go, and I felt very comfortable doing it. 85,000 words is definitely a major commitment, though, and I do need much more thinking and planning time than for the younger books!
And here are my quick fire questions to round off with:
What are you reading at the moment?

 

I’m reading the proof of Stone Rider, a debut UKYA dystopian from David Hofmeyr which is coming in June. Absolutely loving it so far. It’s kind of Hunger Games meets Star Wars podracing meets The Road!
Favourite book as a child?

 

Charles Kingsley’s The Heroes (Greek myths, of course!) and also The Secret Garden. i identified with that one because I was a quite lonely only child who spent a lot of time mooching around gardens.
Favourite writing drink and snack?

 

Either Earl Grey tea (no sugar and must be Williamson’s – I’m fussy about tea), or a pint glass of water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. Snacks are strawberry shortcake or chocolate (Maranon from Peru when I can get it – but any if not. Chocolate is a writing necessity).
5 desert island books?

 

J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the RIngs; Ursula le Guin’s Earthsea quintet; Robin McKinley’s Rose Daughter; Robert Graves’s The Greek Myths; Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller series. Oops. That’s six *slaps own wrist*. You may have noticed I’m also a fantasy geek.
Favourite place to read?

 

In bed, snuggled under the duvet with a hot water bottle and a dog for company.
Any hidden talents?

 

I can roll my eyes in different directions (I don’t do it often because it’s been known to make people feel a bit sick).
What fictional world would you love to live in?

 

Ooh! What a great question. This is something I think about a lot, and I can never decide. Probably somewhere like Robin McKinley’s Damar, or Diana Wynne Jones’s Chrestomanci or Dark Lord of Derkholm worlds (I mean – griffin brothers and sisters. How cool is that?). I like the idea of a magical and quasi-historical ‘world next door but one’, which is what I have on my Twitter profile as the place I live. (I’d have to be one of the magic users, though – that kind of goes without saying). I also have my very own like-to-live-in world in my head, with bits stolen from all the books I love best. If only…

 


Massive thanks to Lucy for taking part today.

You can pre-order Cleo here and visit Lucy’s website here.

And now for something even more exciting (if you think you can handle more excitement!)

Lucy is very kindly giving away a copy of Cleo and an awesome Cleo mug to one lucky entrant of this giveaway. You can enter below via some of the usual means, plus a few Egyptian themed questions to spice things up a bit.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Book Review: The Year of the Rat (Clare Furniss)


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Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 352
Release Date: January 1st 2014
Summary (From Goodreads):

To Pearl, there’s nothing sweet about her premature half-sister, Rose. It was Rose that caused her mother’s death and Rose that turned her world upside down.

To Pearl, Rose is The Rat.
Achingly sad, yet refreshingly real, The Year of The Rat will make you laugh, cry and hold your loved ones a little bit tighter.

Review:

I don’t know why I keep reading these books about grief that make my heart ache so. But I do, and I’ve found yet another one that is beautifully written and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, despite expecting it to not be ‘my kinda thing’.

My favourite thing about this book was how raw and honest it felt. Pearl’s grief is ugly and she has thoughts that you wouldn’t ever tell anyone and that’s why it’s so important to read a book like this. Because no one is alone in these ugly thoughts, and it’s a relief to hear someone else having them.

I didn’t always like Pearl, but I always felt empathy for her, which I think was the important point. She did do some things which I struggled to understand, but I guess that’s what grief can do to you. I really wanted her to love her sister, and felt like she was warming towards her by the end, but I could see how difficult it would be, considering the situation.

The other characters in the book were all lovable in their own way, from Pearl’s step-dad who tried so hard to keep everything together, even as Pearl pushed him away, to her rather overbearing Grandmother who means well, and her dead mother who tries to make light of even the most serious of situations.

Although it’s very sad, this is also a really warming read. I think the best thing about it is that, by the end, Pear isn’t over her mother’s death. She’s ready to accept that she’s gone, but it doesn’t try and make out that everything is okay: it’s still only the beginning of a long and painful journey, but we’ve seen a tiny part of Pearl’s grief road.

My Verdict:




Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!




If you enjoyed this, you may also like The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson


Book Review: Cleo (Lucy Coats)

*I have been given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*

Publisher: Orchard Books

Pages: 320

Release Date: May 7th 2015

Summary (From Goodreads):

Her precious mother is dead – and it isn’t an accident! The young Cleopatra – Pharaoh’s illegitimate daughter – must flee the royal palace at Alexandria or die too. As her evil half-sisters usurp the throne, Cleo finds sanctuary at the sacred temple of Isis, where years later she becomes initiated into the secret Sisters of the Living Knot. But now Isis’s power is failing, Egypt is in danger, and Cleo must prove her loyalty to her goddess by returning to the Alexandria she hates. She must seek out the hidden map which is the key to returning Isis’s power – on pain of death. But will she be able to evade her horrible sisters? And will she find dreamy Khai, the über-hot Librarian boy she met as she fled Alexandria years before? Cleo’s powerful destiny is about to unfold…

Gorgeous and evocative, this captivating new YA novel imagines the life of the teenage Cleopatra before she became the icon we think we know.

Review:

We used to holiday in Egypt when I was younger and it started a passion for all things Ancient Egyptian in me, so I was immediately drawn to this book (that and the gorgeous cover). I read something vaguely similar when I was a teen and I remember, much as I loved it as it fed my Egypt obsession, I struggled a bit with the voice – it was too formal and foreign for me and it was hard to connect with.

I found the opposite with Cleo. The voice and dialogue were modern and actually very relatable: I loved the way her and Charm called each other little names like ‘Princess of Pain’ and ‘Beater of Bruises’ – it’s just the kind of thing I do with my best friend. But because everything was so modern it was sometimes difficult to remember everything was happening in Ancient Egypt.

As I said, I have a great interest in Egypt and I even did a study on Cleopatra once (on if she deserved her reputation as a temptress – very interesting but in this story it’s probably a bit early for that reputation!) I thought I’d probably know how the story would go, but I was very wrong. Cleo isn’t really a re-telling of Cleopatra’s life, but a complete re-imagining of it.

I loved the idea of Cleo seeing the gods and being the Chosen of Isis. Hearing about the relationships between the gods and the effects this had on the country was really interesting, as were the little bits of history and lore dropped in. It never felt too preachy or info-dumpy, but there was enough to give you a rich sense of setting.

When it came to Cleo herself, I thought she was best at the end of the book. Much as she said she didn’t want to be a whiny princess, sometimes I found her to be just that. But when she was facing off with her sisters (though I did wish she’d stop calling them Evil Sow Sisters quite so much) she really came into her own. I’d love to see more of that: the political power play, dodging round what you really want to say. It was very dangerous and empowering and I loved seeing how she handled herself against them.

I thought the romance was a touch insta-love for my liking, but I’m also a massive romance cynic so it’s probably just me. I liked that Cleo knew him from before we start reading her story and would love to see more of a connection there. I hope there’s more story to come for her and Khai as I’d love to see their relationship build. But the relationship I really loved was Cleo and Charm’s: they’re the perfect best friends and Charm had me quite charmed (cheesy I know, sorry!)

The ending frustrated me, only because I wanted to see what happens next. Gotta love a good cliffhanger! Much as it annoyed me, I knew it was the right place to end. The tension and drama was unrelenting and it marked the end of the first part of Cleo’s journey, and I look forward to seeing where her adventure goes next.

4

Check here see my interview with Lucy Coats for the #CountdownYA event or here to see her guest post on where she writes for YAShot 2015

Top Five… Bad Book Habits

So this post has been a while in the making. I’ve been thinking about it since a #UKYAChat near the beginning of the year, where we talked about our bad bookish habits. I had a few stories then (mostly just me being careless, like when I lost several book pages into the Nile…) but I’ve been thinking about it more lately and noticing when I do bad things. 
So here are my Top Five Bad Book Habits:

5.
Not taking care of books

This book is sellotaped together and has several loose pages, rips and blemishes. But only because I love it so much and it’s been read so often.

I used to be super careful of my books and would freak out if a page got creased or the cover got a little scuffed. I’ve learned to let go a bit now, and some of my favourite books are the ones that are the most battered. It just shows they’ve been well read and well loved. 

4.
Not lending books


Ever. I can’t do it any more. I’m too worried that someone will ruin it, or never give it back. Every time someone mentions borrowing a book I will skilfully steer the conversation away until it’s forgotten. No one takes my books!

3.
Re-reading the same things

I can’t count how many times I’ve read this book. And I’m planning on doing it again soon…
All the time. Seriously, I spent the last few years going over and over the same books. In a way that’s nice, as there are some books that I think I could just love off forever. But I’ve been forcing myself to read new things this year, and I’ve discovered so many great books as a result of that.

2.
Judging books by their covers

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How gorgeous is this cover?!
I did a post on this a while back. I know the saying goes not to judge a book by it’s cover, but if we weren’t meant to do that then what are covers for?! But still, it has got me in ‘trouble’ in the past, with gorgeous covers luring me in to a terrible story, and inconspicuous covers secretly containing genius stories.


1.
Skipping to the end

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There’s so many last sentence cliffhangers in this book and I kept pre-reading them all


I do this all the time. Sometimes it’s the end of the book, and I can’t resist sneaking a peak at the last few sentences. But I’ve noticed recently that I do it more often than I thought, with the last sentence of a chapter. Especially on books that end with cliffhangers, like The Maze Runner series – every time the end of a chapter came up my eyes flicked there automatically. It’s like I have to spoil things for myself! 
Does anyone else have any bad book habits you’d like to get rid of, or have grown to love?


Book Review: Stardust (Neil Gaiman)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads

#RandomRead

Publisher: Headline Review

Pages: 194

Release Date: First published in 1988

Summary (From Goodreads):

One fateful night, Tristran promises his beloved that he will retrieve a fallen star for her from beyond the Wall that stands between their rural English town (called, appropriately, Wall) and the Faerie realm. No one ever ventures beyond the Wall except to attend an enchanted flea market that is held every nine years (and during which, unbeknownst to him, Tristran was conceived). But Tristran bravely sets out to fetch the fallen star and thus win the hand of his love.

Review:

I picked this book for Stacey as part of our Random Reads feature. I only really picked it because I wanted to read it, have been meaning to for a while, and thought this would be the good nudge along that I needed.

While as a whole I did enjoy this book, I found there was just something lacking in it for me.

I wasn’t really sure, going in, what age it was aimed at, and coming out I’m still not certain. Sometimes it read very much like a fairytale for younger readers, and then there was violence and sex which you wouldn’t really expect to find in a book for younger readers.

I struggled to get into it at first, as I just didn’t find the first few pages very gripping. It took me a while to warm up to the story, and just when I thought I was getting invested in the characters, I found they took a back seat as Tristan came into it as the main character. While this is quite common in fairy tales in general, I found here it just didn’t help me get into the story.

I loved the character of the Star: her grouchiness and snarky remarks to Tristan made me laugh and I liked how they both saved each other, rather than her being a typical damsel in distress. Their relationship grew very naturally as well, even if it was obvious what was going to happen.

There were so many tantalising bits of information dropped in that really helped to populate the Faerie realm and bring it to life. My only complaint there would be that I wanted to find more about their stories! I was especially intrigued by the squirrel searching for the Acorn of Truth.

I loved the witches and, again, wanted to find out more of their life and history than the glimpse we got. The thing that disappointed me was the climax, as I expected a little more of a showdown between the Star and the witch: the ending fell a little flat for me.

While I did enjoy this, I found it was too much like an extended, classic fairy tale. You know how when you read a Grimm tale (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately) and you get the story, you know what happened but you don’t really get a real sense of the characters? That’s how Stardust felt for me: I didn’t feel part of the story, I was very much on the outside, watching.

My Verdict:

3

You can pop over to Stacie’s blog and see her review here.

Book Review: The Book Thief (Markus Zusak)

This review is part of Stacie and Maia’s Random Reads
#RandomReads

893136

Publisher: Black Swan
Pages: 560
Release Date: September 2005
Summary (From Goodreads):

HERE IS A SMALL FACT – YOU ARE GOING TO DIE

1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier.
Liesel, a nine-year-old girl, is living with a foster family on Himmel Street. Her parents have been taken away to a concentration camp. Liesel steals books. This is her story and the story of the inhabitants of her street when the bombs begin to fall.
SOME IMPORTANT INFORMATION – THIS NOVEL IS NARRATED BY DEATH
It’s a small story, about:
a girl
an accordionist
some fanatical Germans
a Jewish fist fighter
and quite a lot of thievery.
ANOTHER THING YOU SHOULD KNOW – DEATH WILL VISIT THE BOOK THIEF THREE TIMES
Review:

I have a bit of a history with this book, which I will be posting about in my Random Reads discussion next week. I was pleased when Stacie chose it for me to read, as it’s been so long since I first read it that I can’t really remember what I thought of it.

For anyone who doesn’t know (and hasn’t read the summary above), one of the most interesting things about this book is its narrator. Rather than being narrated by Liesel, the protagonist, her story is told through the eyes of Death, who watches Liesel and visits her three times.

This is a really different quirk and Death’s narrative voice adds a lot to the story. The book is full of rich metaphors that I think work well because they’re told from the point of view of someone who isn’t human, or seeing things like us. Death notices colours a lot and describes things in a way we probably wouldn’t.

This is a good point and a bad one in my mind, as, while sometimes I think it creates a really beautiful picture of what’s happening, other times I feel like I’m trawling through metaphor after simile after metaphor. It all got a bit much after a while, and I sometimes found myself pausing to puzzle over what a metaphor actually meant, which brought me out of the story.

The second world war setting, along with Death narration, brings something very ominous to the story. You know vaguely where it’s going to go – not in a predictable way, just in a ‘Oh no, awful things are going to happen’ kind of way. It also creates characters that you can’t help but love in that difficult position. A favourite for me is Hans, Liesel’s adoptive Papa who comforts her in her nightmares, teaches her to read and disagrees with the Nazi party, even as he tries to placate them to keep his family safe. It’s a complicated situation, one impossible to win really, but he tries so hard to do the right thing.

Liesel herself is a great protagonist – strong, smart, and ultimately flawed in a way that makes her relatable. Sometimes she says awful thing because she is unhappy, she does or doesn’t do things she regrets, and that just makes her all the more loveable.

I sometimes found the language a little jarring – often people will say something in German, and then the translation is given too, as if they said that as well. This probably annoys me because I speak German so it was like reading the same phrase/similar thing twice, but when the majority of dialogue is in English it did feel a bit odd.

The ending is a really bitter sweet one. Which is how I often say I like my endings, although this one has a lot more for the bitter and a lot less of the sweet. But there’s something about it that makes me not want to describe it as wholly sad. But you shall have to read and judge for yourself, I don’t want to spoil anything here!

This is a really beautiful book and you can see why it appeals to adults and younger readers alike, and why it is so internationally read. Reading after such a long time has been like reading it for the first time and I can safely say now it is definitely a book I enjoy, just a little heavy handed with the metaphors for me.

My Verdict:


Ahaha I love this book, you should totally read it!

Check out Stacie’s review of The Book Thief here