Books reviews: Red Queen, Thirteen Reasons Why and The One Memory of Flora Banks.

Red Queen (Red Queen, #1)Title: Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #1
Publication: 10th February  2015 by HarperTeen
Genre: YAFantasy.

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge –  A book where one of the main characters is royalty.


This is a book that you’ve read before. Many times. It’s just a mash up of lots of popular books. This left it being highly predictable and, for me, disappointing.

There are Reds and Silvers. Silvers have special powers (think X-Men) and therefore rule the Reds and send them off to war at 17 to fight their battles. Throughout the book, the Reds do very little escape their living state.

And then Mare comes along. Like most YA heroines,  she is the reckless Saviour, who is unlike all the others and powers. Again, think any YA heroine, she is also sassy but makes silly choices. When she gets two love interests come along she thinks about them both obsessively. On the bright side, the love triangle isn’t dominating of the book.

I loved Queen Elara. Manipulative, ruthless and malicious, she was something fresh in the book as she provided twists. Although, again, the character was a lot like Cersei from Game of Thrones as she had a fierce love for her children and was ruthless in getting them, and herself, power.

For me, the major saving grace of this book was the ending.

I know lots of people loved this book and they can get over the fact that it’s basically a mash up of other books because they get investing in the characters but for me it was too similar to other books, making it predictable and lacking in originality.

3-stars

Thirteen Reasons Why

Title: Thirteen Reasons Why
Author: Jay Asher
Series: N/A
Publication: 18th October 2007 by Razorbill
Genre: YA

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge – An epistolary fiction


Wow.

I read this book just after the TV series had been released on Netflix. I went in knowing nothing other than it was about suicide. I was completely hooked.

This is Hannah’s story, even though she has already killed herself. Before she committed suicide, she recorded 13 cassette tapes which are passed on to 13 people to say how they had an impact her decision to end her life.

I was so captivated by what Hannah was saying. It was just so eerie and powerful. I sped read Clay’s bits, as really he was just a mediator as he listens to the tapes, just so I could listen to what she was saying.

Whether you like the book or not, it still has a powerful message which really makes you think about how our words and actions have an impact on other’s lives.

5-stars

The One Memory of Flora Banks

Title: The One Memory of Flora Banks
Author: Emily Barr
Series: N/A
Publication: 12th January 2017 by Penguin
Genre: YA

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge – A book written or set in Scandinavia (Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Iceland)


This review contains some minor spoilers

I received a few chapters of this book in one of my Illumicrate boxes. Then I started seeing it everywhere. So when it came down to being 99p on kindle, I had to buy it. I’m glad it was only 99p.

Flora has anterograde amnesia. She can’t remember anything day-to-day, and writes things on her arm to help her remember. Then she kisses someone she shouldn’t have and the next day she begins remembering things for the first time since she was ten. Then the boy is gone. She thinks he’s moved to the Arctic…

I haven’t read many books about anterograde amnesia but all the ones I have read have the same “twist” that someone is not telling them something. So when the twist came up, it wasn’t a surprise, it was a groan that emerged from me.

This whole book just screamed unbelievable to me. Not only the twist but her making her way to Norway on her own without raising any suspicion.

The one thing I did like is that the synopsis suggested that her amnesia could be cured by the kiss, but luckily (for the plot) it wasn’t.

2-stars


Have you read, or are you going to read, any of these books? What did you think?

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The Darkest Magic by Morgan Rhodes

The Darkest Magic (Spirits and Thieves, #2)

Title: The Darkest Magic
Author: Morgan Rhodes
Series: Spirits and Thieves #2 (Book One Review)
Publication: 28th June 2016
Genre: YA, Fantasy,

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge– A book set in a fictional location

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Modern-day Toronto: Sisters Crystal and Becca Hatcher are reunited after reclaiming the Bronze Codex and narrowly escaping death. They have no one to trust but each other, and the only thing keeping them safe is the book that sent Becca’s spirit to Ancient Mytica–the same book that their enemies would kill them for.

Ancient Mytica: Maddox grapples to keep his newly discovered powers under control, while the ruthless goddess Valoria hunts him down.

Modern-day Toronto: Farrell embraces his dark side as he unwittingly falls further under the spell of Markus, the mastermind leader of the nefarious Hawkspear Society, who will stop at nothing to find Crys and Becca–and the remarkable book in their possession.

My Thoughts

I loved the Falling Kingdoms series and was kicking myself that I held off reading the first book of this series for so long as I enjoyed it just as much. That said, I was really disappointed with this book. I found it a real struggle to push through the story. It took me weeks to finally complete it as I found myself loosing interest in some of the characters and the story line.

I really enjoyed Farrell’s POV, he’s definitely my favourite character. I loved seeing how he dealt, and is continuing to deal with, the evil within. I would love for him to turn out to be the villain in the end. I always look forward to his chapters. I’m not so keen on Becca or Maddox but I’m hoping due to the events in this book that their story line with grow on me.

I’m hoping this book is struggling with middle book syndrome. I will definitely be reading the next book, as it is the final book in the series, and pray that it end on a strong note.

My Rating

3-stars

The Reason I Jump by Naoki Higashida

File:The Reason I Jump book cover.jpgTitle: The Reason I Jump: THe Iner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism
Author: Naoki Higashida. Translated by K.A.Yoshida and David Mitchell
Series: N/A
Publication: 27th August 2013 by Random House
Genre: Non-fiction

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge–  A New York Times best seller

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Written by Naoki Higashida, a very smart, very self-aware, and very charming thirteen-year-old boy with autism, it is a one-of-a-kind memoir that demonstrates how an autistic mind thinks, feels, perceives, and responds in ways few of us can imagine. Parents and family members who never thought they could get inside the head of their autistic loved one, at last, have a way to break through to the curious, subtle, and complex life within.

Using an alphabet grid to painstakingly construct words, sentences, and thoughts that he is unable to speak out loud, Naoki answers even the most delicate questions that people want to know. Questions such as: “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?” “Why do you line up your toy cars and blocks?” “Why don’t you make eye contact when you’re talking?” and “What’s the reason you jump?” (Naoki’s answer: “When I’m jumping, it’s as if my feelings are going upward to the sky.”) With disarming honesty and a generous heart, Naoki shares his unique point of view on not only autism but life itself. His insights—into the mystery of words, the wonders of laughter, and the elusiveness of memory—are so startling, so strange, and so powerful that you will never look at the world the same way again.

My Thoughts

This book wasn’t what I was expecting. I was expecting an author to have sat down with a boy with autism after an interview or two with him and to have taken his answer and put it into eloquent paragraphs for a long book. What this was was much better. At the top of each page was a question and Naoki Higashida’s responses, as best as he could, for his own personal reactions and why he feels other people may react in that way.

If you know anyone with autism or have read about it, you know that every person is completely different and autism is a wide spectrum. Just because one person with autism does not like to be touched, does not mean that another person doesn’t either, just because one person has trouble with speech doesn’t mean that another person would. With this in mind, this book is a wonderful insight into Naoki’s mind, and elements can definitely be applicable to other people but it is in no means a help guide or a fact book.

When you read information about Autism, it is usually written by Ed psychs, psychologists and doctors that have studied it. It is based on their research and their discussions and observations. It is rarely written directly by a person who lives it. Especially by a person with limited verbal communication skills. It was therefore incredibly interesting to read why Naoki feels he reacts to certain things in certain ways. For example, many children with autism run away. Naoki explains that is not because he means to, it’s because his mind is on a certain place and before he even notices it his body is flying to that room. Similarly he explains that he feels that some people seem emotional not necessarily because they’re upset but because they’re remembering something happy.

Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something. Crying isn’t necessarily about sadness or meltdowns or being upset. I’d like you to bear that in mind, if you would.

Baring in mind how every person is different, I did find it very frustrating when the said “us” and “all” generallising all people with autism, when this is clearly not the case.

Additionally, although I found it interesting, I am skeptic of how much was written by Naoki. As a thirteen year old with limited verbal communication skills  I do find it difficult to believe that he, independently, wrote things like

We just want to go back. To the distant, distant past. To a primeval era, in fact, before human beings even existed. All people with autism feel the same about this one, I reckon.

It states that he was supported by his mother and a facilitated communication, then translated. I wonder how much was embellished.

A very interesting read, with some interesting insights, but definitely not to be read as a face-fact book.

My Rating

3-stars

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Series: N/A
Publication: April 1925
Genre: Modernist, Jazz Age.

Around the World in 52 Books Challenge–  A book with an unreliable narrator

Synopsis (Goodreads)

He was in love with the golden girl of a gilded era. He was Jay Gatsby, a self-made millionaire who gave wild and lavish parties attended by strangers.

“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.”

She was Daisy Buchanan, a young rich beauty with bright eyes and a passionate mouth.

“High in a white palace, the King’s daughter, the Golden Girl.” Even her voice was “full of money.”

A great novel of a glittering era, of amazing richness and scope, this is the most dazzling fiction we possess of the Jazz Age’s reckless revels.

A fable of the Roaring Twenties that will survive as a legend.

My Thoughts

Great Gatsby is one of those books that has been read and studied time and time again, so I have little, if anything, new to add to the conversation. So I will keep this brief.

 I find with classics that I generally love them if I study them, or read them whilst talking to someone who is enthusiastic about them, but less impressed if I read them on my own. This was definitely the case with The Great Gatsby. I’ve heard from many people that this is their favourite book,. My boyfriend studied it for A-Level and enjoyed it. As I was reading it I was incredibly confused. I didn’t understand people’s enjoyment of it – nothing happened! Until the end. Even then I was so tired I missed the actual scene, even when I re-read it.

So, confused as to what I had evidently missed I did a good old Google search. From reading things like Spark notes, I picked up on some of the things while reading – like the motif of the car and the green light but missed subtitles like the weather and the eyes looking over them.

I’m not going to lie, when reading over people’s analysis’ of the book, like most well-read classics, I couldn’t help but think “where did they get this stuff”.  I’m pretty sure people have read into these things deeper than the author intended.

Anyway, if anyone would like to explain their love of the book to me, I would love to hear it. Otherwise, it is an easy and enjoyable read but I feel I would have enjoyed it more if I had studied it.

My Rating

3-stars

Perfect by Cecelia Ahern

Perfect (Flawed, #2)

Title: Perfect
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Series: Flawed #2
Publication: 24th April 2017
Genre: Teens & Young Adult, Dystopian

ARC provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Around the Year in 52 Book Challenge – A book published in 2017

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured–all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with Carrick–the only person she can trust.

But Celestine has a secret–one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground. A secret that has already caused countless people to go missing.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save just herself or to risk her life to save all Flawed people.

And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed?

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed Flawed. I loved the world and the story and although the world was slightly familiar, I loved the new take on it.

While I loved the story in the last book, finding it refreshingly different, I found this book boringly predictable. I had to put it down about 50% of the way through  I found myself strongly reminded of the Divergent series. I finally picked it up after about a month and could easily pick up the book from where I’d left off.

I felt like the original concept, of having a flawed society that brands their flawed, that I loved from the first book was gone. We all knew how it was going to end and it took us on a very long journey to get to there. Even what I assume was meant to be a shock I found predictable.

Oh and we can’t forge the love triangle – because all YA Dystopian books I seem to be reading at the moment have to have a love interest at least. I really feel that this book mainly disappointed me because of the love interests, although this wasn’t the only focus I do feel that it occurred in parts where it didn’t need to.

An OK sequel but not my favourite.

My Rating

3-stars

Bridget Jones by Helen Fielding

The Bridget Jones Omnibus The Singleton YearsBridget Jones's Baby: The Diaries (Bridget Jones, #4)

Bridget Jones’s Diary (Bridget Jones’s Diary #1)

The Edge of Reason (Bridget Jones’s Diary #2)

Bridget Jones’s Baby (Bridget Jones’s Diary #4)

My Thoughts

These books fall into the rare category of the film being better than the book.

Image result for david tennant

The yummy David Tennant

I read Bridget Jones’s Baby first. I haven’t seen the film, but bizarrely kept imagining David Tennant as Daniel, which is unusual as he is played by Hugh Grant in the first two films and replaced by the character Jack Qwant played by the McDreamy Patrick Dempsey in the film Bridget Jones’s Baby.

I think out of the three, Bridget Jones’ Baby was my favorite and Bridget Jones’ Diaries was my least favourite. Although it seems I’m one of the few people that thought the second book was better than the first. I just feel that it had a much better story line with manipulative Rebbeca.

The books are all silly and funny, although I didn’t quite audibly laugh they certainly made me smiling. My favourite scene from all three books has to be the Colin Firth interview.

I was really torn with her recording her weight, what she ate and number of cigarettes. I liked that she recorded them as it shows that there are other people who are as obsessed with it as I am. But I disliked the fact that she kept going on about how fat she was. It wasn’t just her who was saying she’s fat, it was other characters too. I weight more than she does so this was quite disheartening to me.

Overall, they were enjoyable, but I would rather watch the films.

Ben and Jerry photo bridget-jones-quotes-8_zps218zm1yo.jpg

My Rating

3-stars

Paris for One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One and Other Stories

Title: Paris for One and Other Stories
Author: Jojo Moyes
Series: N/A
Publication: 18th October 2016 by Michael Joseph
Genre: Fiction.

Around the Year in 52 Book Challenge – A collection – short stories

Synopsis (Goodreads)

A collection of 11 unmissable short stories from the number 1 internationally bestselling author of Me Before You and After You

Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She’s never even been on a romantic weekend away-to anywhere-before. Travelling abroad isn’t really her thing. But when Nell’s boyfriend fails to show up, she has the chance to prove to everyone-including herself- that she can be independent and intrepid. Alone in Paris, Nell finds a version of herself she never knew existed . . .

In the ten other stories, Jojo Moyes introduces us to a cast of strong, relatable women in the midst of their everyday lives. In Honeymoon in Paris, featuring characters from her bestselling novel, The Girl You Left Behind, Liv and Sophie – though decades apart – both find that marriage is only the beginning of their love stories. InCrocodile Shoes, a businesswoman’s blossoming confidence emerges from a fateful changing-room mix-up. And in both Love in the Afternoon and A Bird in the Hand, two couples dance around the trickiness of long-time marriage. In this irresistible collection, readers will be whisked from elegant perfume shops to taxis to five-star hotel rooms and more.

My Thoughts

I love Jojo Moyes, she is one of those few authors that can make you cry with sadness and laughter all in one book, sometimes at the same time. I adored  Me Before You and After You So, when I saw this book, I had to read it.

This book contains 11 stories, some are longer than others and I definitely enjoyed some more than others.

My favourites were:
Paris for One: This novella takes up over half of the book. It feels like it has a clear ending book. This was my favourite story in the book. I loved the Paris setting and the heroine’s emotions.

Honeymoon in Paris: The was the second longest story in this book. It flicked between Liv and Sophie who lived decades apart (characters from The Girl You Left Behind, but you don’t have to have read this to love the story). Both newly weds are struggling with the beginning of their marriage.

My least favourites
Last Year’s Coat: A woman is jealous about other people’s lives, mainly that they can afford to buy things and her family can’t. She wants a new coat. She ends up getting the coat..

Thirteen Days with John C: I didn’t enjoy this one at all. Infact, I skim read most of it.

It’s worth reading for the main two stories but the other could be missed.

My Rating

3star

Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Holding Up the Universe

Title: Holding up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Series: N/A
Publication:  6th October 2016 by Penguin
Genre: YA Fiction.

ARC Provided by Penguin in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Everyone thinks they know Libby Strout, the girl once dubbed “America’s Fattest Teen.” But no one’s taken the time to look past her weight to get to know who she really is. Following her mom’s death, she’s been picking up the pieces in the privacy of her home, dealing with her heartbroken father and her own grief. Now, Libby’s ready: for high school, for new friends, for love, and for every possibility life has to offer. In that moment, I know the part I want to play here at MVB High. I want to be the girl who can do anything. 

Everyone thinks they know Jack Masselin, too. Yes, he’s got swagger, but he’s also mastered the impossible art of giving people what they want, of fitting in. What no one knows is that Jack has a newly acquired secret: he can’t recognize faces. Even his own brothers are strangers to him. He’s the guy who can re-engineer and rebuild anything, but he can’t understand what’s going on with the inner workings of his brain. So he tells himself to play it cool: Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.

Until he meets Libby. When the two get tangled up in a cruel high school game—which lands them in group counseling and community service—Libby and Jack are both pissed, and then surprised. Because the more time they spend together, the less alone they feel. Because sometimes when you meet someone, it changes the world, theirs and yours.

My Thoughts

This is a story about a girl who had weight issues and a boy who is face-blind. Libby was strong as she managed to deal with a huge amount of bullying. She was bubbly and sassy and willing to stand  up for herself. As a character I really liked her. Jack was popular kid who bowed  to peer pressure and, due to him dealing with face-blindness,but not wanting anyone else to know, could be a jerk.

I didn’t really go into this with high hopes as I wasn’t overly fussed with All the Bright Places. Part of my issue with AtBP was that the characters felt like they were conditions that were given human form as a way of trying to education the audiences. It felt very similar in this book to not to the same extent. The two teens are characterized by their weight and prosopagnosia (the inability to recognize faces) because it is a important element of the book, but I feel Libby was a lot more rounded as a character.

I was really frustrated by the ending. I feel like the message of the story is to love yourself, yet the happy ending is that the handsome guy falls in love with the once overweight girl. I personally wanted the characters to come to realisations without the need of love.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend this book for the plot but I would for it’s characters.

My Rating

three-stars

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

Stardust

Title: Stardust
Author: Neil Gaiman
Series: N/A
Publication: 29th August 2006
Genre: Fantasy

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Young Tristran Thorn will do anything to win the cold heart of beautiful Victoria—even fetch her the star they watch fall from the night sky. But to do so, he must enter the unexplored lands on the other side of the ancient wall that gives their tiny village its name. Beyond that old stone wall, Tristran learns, lies Faerie—where nothing, not even a fallen star, is what he imagined.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Neil Gaiman comes a remarkable quest into the dark and miraculous—in pursuit of love and the utterly impossible.

My Thoughts

This has been sitting on myself for years. I’ve never actually read a Neil Gaiman book before (I know, I know, I’m ashamed and shocked too). So, I’m very late to join the party – this makes me very conscious that there is very little I can add that hasn’t already been said.

Within the book, we have Tristran and the star, Yvaine, on the journey back to Wall, the small village that Tristran lives in. The Witches, who are on the hunt for the star to consume her to restore their youth. Also on route to claim the star for their own are a trio of princes, as whomever claims her earns the Kingship.

Despite how short this book was, it took me a lot longer to read than I expected. The writing style was intelligent, with elaborate, beautiful prose combined with wit and humour. It took the stereotypical fairy tale and put a darker twist on it making it for adults. Within the first chapter there is a sex scene, death within the first half and some violence and gore.

I’ve seen the film before and found myself comparing the two as I read. I assume Gaiman worked closely on the film? As for the most part, the two are very similar. I found the ending of the book, not necessarily rushed, but over quicker than the film.

My Rating

3star

All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

All the Bright Places

Title: All The Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Series: N/A
Publication: 6th January 2015.
Genre: YA, Fiction, Love and Romance.

Synopsis (Goodreads)

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

My Thoughts

I’m trying to write this review about a month after completing it so I can confidently say that this was a good but forgettable book. I have found myself having to read numerous reviews to remind myself what the book was about.

As the blurb clearly states, this book is about depression and suicide. For some, this book will be world changing, enlightening and something they can clearly relate to. For others, it will be infuriating and possibly predictable..

I fall into the latter. As I was reading the book, I really couldn’t relate to the characters. They felt, to me, like the illness put into human form. There was nothing else about them other than the mental illness. Now, I can understand why the author has done this – they are important and increasingly common illnesses that people will encounter through their lifetime, whether it’s personally or in passing. I assume that she wanted to show how the illness can control you life and show that having a supportive network family and friends is important. However, I personally found the characters very 2D and didn’t grow to love them.

I did like the ending, it surprised me and was the only part that I found gripping.

I can understand why this book has got the hype it has but for me it was a lead balloon.

My rating

three-stars