Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Light of the Fireflies

Hey, it's Heather here! This is a book review on something quite different for me.

Author: Paul Pen (translated by Simon Bruni)
Published: April 2016
Publisher: AmazonCrossing
My rating: ★★★

The title and cover may fool you with the whole sweet little light bug façade; in reality it contains an abusive father, references to rape, incest and a bit of manslaughter. I’m going to avoid spoiling this book, but let me warn you that it is much darker than the adorable front cover insinuates. I honestly did not expect to find myself immersed in a story about a little boy who grows up in a basement with a family of distorted faces and a sister who is consistently nagged to cover her face because it’s disturbing to the eye. However, I bought this book on my kindle less than 24 hours ago and could not stop reading.
The psychological side of me found this book fascinating; deciphering what was truth in a basement of lies was frustrating yet also addictive. Most parents feed their kids a few white lies to make their childhood enchanting, like the tooth fairy and the bogeyman. Those as gullible as I will be made to listen to their brother boosting about how they tricked you into believing clouds of dust were weenie robots that ate people’s brains. The protagonist in this book is approaching the age when making them believe fictional things sours into lying to them, and when they realise they have been lied to, they retort in doubt. Like in many a Shakespeare play, doubt is the seed of a plant that fruits terrible feelings like jealousy, anger, resentment and betrayal. Indeed, it is a remarkable book with a very clever plot dictated through the thoughts of a child. None of the characters are named, they are all just known by their familial role, which makes it somewhat easier to follow. There was one line in particular that made me place my kindle down and look up at my bumpy ceiling in thought; “A door loses its meaning if you don’t ever go through it. It becomes a wall.” I don’t really know why this line interested me so much; I suppose the whole line relates to life in a way I had never considered. People always whine about their job or partner or even the weather, but there has always been that ‘door’; they are not forced to work, they could break up with that person, they could move countries. The effort of leaving everything else behind is what makes us remain, the fact that there are so many positives despite all the things we nag about.
Aspects of the novel I swelled with anger at. I will not spoil the plot, but throughout the book the father acts unkindly, yet does anyone properly stand up against him? No. If someone purposely inflicted violence against a member of my family, I would be livid, but this was treated as normal in the story.
I don’t know how to approach the recommendations for it. If I was another person, I would laugh at the thought of myself reading it – I am literally writing this review whilst sitting next to a bookcase that contains ‘Lost in the Snow’, an emotional story about a kitten named Fluff that goes missing around Christmas time. I avoid horror and ‘dark material’ (aside from Phillip Pullman’s dark material, those books are brilliant), reading this type of fiction is definitely worse than watching it because you have to conjure up the images described in your head, and when you have formed a mental image it can be difficult to take it away. Anyone under the age of fourteen I would advise not to read it, but if you don’t mind some disturbing moments, give it a read and let me know what you think.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone

Author: J.K. Rowling
Published: 26 June 1997
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Rating: 9/10

Hey guys! It's Lydia here.
 Sorry its been a while since I posted anything. I've been quite busy since I came back from Greece, but I have still manage to read many books. Since my last post I have read Dracula by Bram Stroker, which I'm going to be comparing Frankenstein to for my coursework for English, then I have also read Harry Potter and the Philosopher stone. Now, I know what you're all thinking, why should she be reading Harry Potter at her age? Or isn't that a bit old for you? Actually Harry Potter is a book that can be read and instantly loved by all ages. I have in fact read a few of the books some years ago, but came to the conclusion that J.K. Rowling's writing style wasn't to my taste. However many years later I have been intrigued to give the series another go, this is because I love the films and they always say the books is better than the film, and they are usually correct.

After finishing the book I had a very warm and happy feeling, as with each turning page (or swipe of the kindle in my case) you grow to love the characters and enwrap yourself in the story. At the moment I don't have a favourite character, however I do love Ron, he is absolutely hilarious! Am I the only person who feels that reading on a kindle is quicker than reading a real book, as I found I finished the books in a few days. Heather has a theory that the light from the Kindle makes you blink less, so thats why its a quicker process to read from a kindle, I have no idea if this is true or not.

I've decided that in my reviews, I won't give away any spoilers, as I realised before I was just letting you read the whole plot and concept of the story in the books I've reviewed. So now, I will sensor my reviews for any main plot holes to books/novels.

I do have a big regret that when I was eleven, the same age as Harry, Ron and Hermione, that I should have read the books, as I think I would have seen the characters as roles models. Although even now, being seventeen I still take a shinning to them.
 J.K.Rowling has created this beautiful world of magic and mystery that intrigues her readers into reading the rest of the series, The Philosophers Stone is like a appetiser and the next six books are the main meals.

I do have a theory about our protagonist, Harry Potter, the beloved character that even muggles like ourselves know about. Even though Harry is our main character, he would be nothing without his friends Ron and Hermione, come to think of it, he might have been dead in the first book or two if it weren't for them. This is the same with many other books, the protagonist is nothing special without his/her friends, it is the other characters that develop the protagonists awareness of his or herself.

Let me guys know what you thought of Harry Potter when you first read it, leave me some comments below.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Murder Must Advertise

Hope you are all enjoying Summer, this is Heather again! My mother and I did a book swap and I was, very fortunately, given this book to read. I loved it. If you have read any of the novels in the Lord Peter Wimsey series then do comment your views on them.

Author: Dorothy L. Sayers
Published: 1933
Publisher: Victor Gollancz
My rating out of five: ★★★★ (I found some star text thingy, very exciting!)

It would be tricky to write about this murder-mystery novel without spilling a few spoilers, so please do be aware of that before reading. This is the first Lord Peter Wimsey novels that I have ever read and I did, indeed, enjoy it. The plot is rather complicated but basically: Dean ‘fell’ down the stairs at an advertising firm, but he leaves a letter on his desk which insinuates that perhaps it was not quite as accidental as first presumed. Lord Peter Wimsey hence whisks in to the firm under the pseudonym of ‘Death Bredon’ to covertly investigate.
I thought it pure genius that Sayers should set the murder within an advertising firm. Wimsey comes up with some truly scintillating slogans and lines, resulting in a novel jam-packed with witty comments. I am in awe of the complications of the plot; honestly I think detective novels are underrated for the astonishing amount of hard work that goes into finding possible and inventive murder methods. My memory is awful so I had a piece of paper with basic descriptions of each character scribbled onto it. The paper was crammed full by the end of the novel with over thirty people mentioned. I send my thanks to wasps for inspiring Réaumur to spread the theory of how to create paper – because without my paper and pen I would be entirely lost. The ample amount of people was a benefit for this type of book; everything felt more realistic with endless possibilities of who could be confided in and the intricacy involved in drugs and murder.
The one aspect of the novel that I found unpleasant was the death of Tallboy. Given the period in history the book is set in, to be hung for his crimes would have been catastrophic for Tallboy’s child and wife and have had the same outcome of his death. Nevertheless, I disliked how Wimsey basically told him to kill himself instead of finding a more practical solution. He could have faked Tallboy’s death, waited for a year or so then smuggled his family out of the country (okay, admittedly my own alternate ending is hardly realistic and could go wrong in many ways). Wimsey was probably a strong believer in justice and the ‘fairness’ of killing criminals. A minor thing I should also mention is that occasionally some characters pop-up that have had a past in the series. Being ignorant in Wimsey’s family history I was puzzled at who exactly the Duke Gerald was to him, let alone Helen! This is, of course, my own fault though for having not read the series in the correct order.
Many people steer away from detective fiction, I am not quite sure why. It is not as simple as some of the fiction available and the reader has to not only read but also analyse a lot. For this reason, I would not recommend reading it when you feel shattered as you may feel lost in the plot. Overall, it is an excellent book though with some very clever and entertaining lines.

Sunday, 7 August 2016

Over the Edge

Hello, this is Heather! I was on holiday at a Scottish Island last week so bade goodbye to wi-fi except in Internet Cafes, which meant reading conditions were ideal. Sadly it also meant I couldn't post this review until now, so apologies for that. Hope you enjoy :) 

Author: L S May

Published: May 2016
Publisher: (unknown)

A friend of mine recommended that I try a mocha a couple of weeks ago and the experience was similar to reading this book. There were aspects in the mocha that I enjoyed immensely, such as the sprinkling of cocoa and familiar hot chocolate like taste, but ultimately the coffee left an aftertaste of the same bitterness that seven-year-old me felt when my brother beheaded my Barbie dolls (I got my revenge a few weeks after). It was then that I concluded that coffee just isn’t for me – however the incident was not one that I regretted, much like this book. The story goes like this: Cierra tries to commit suicide by jumping off a cliff, yet it just so happens that she falls into a portal instead. Here, she meets a lad named Justin, his boisterous brother-like companion, Zach and Ruth, who threatens her to return to her world and never come back. Naturally, the rebellion in Cierra dismisses this threat and she latches onto the first bit of light that she has felt in a long time by fishing notes through the portal to communicate with Justin. They soon open up to each other and Cierra attempts to ‘have a go’ at life despite home life being somewhat hard. This is a spoiler for those that do intend on reading the book, but in the end Ruth is revealed to be like the creepy mother from Coraline and acts in a rather psychopathic way. The book ends on the stereotypical ball scene in which Justin, who lost his memory along the way, dances with Cierra and recites various fluffy memories of their time together that happen to be drifting back to him.
To begin, I will address the chocolate and cream combo of the book. I read the book very quickly; I even declined an Uno game to finish it. The plot is far from dull, yet at the same time it is extremely easy to follow. I also really appreciated the fact that the author chose to focus on a few characters instead of introduce a new person on every page. The description of Cierra’s depression was very well written at points, this quote being my favourite; “It took her whole world and made it as cold and empty as the weight in her chest. It made the very air unwelcoming. And worst of all was the darkness. The way the sun never pierced the clouds, but struggled through, coming out weaker on the other side.” I found this an impressive way to demonstrate the affects of depression and give the reader some real imagery of the way 350 million people view the world. Like my mocha, the book was pretty cheap costing just a little over two quid and I did enjoy it so cannot complain. I feel that May has a lot of potential as an author, with such a creative storyline I will be looking out for her other books.
However, there were elements of the book that I thought could be improved. I know that in states of severe depression one can get caught in a rain cloud of their own to put it lightly, but Cierra came across as the epitome of selfish at times. No, I am not referring to how she tried to commit suicide just after a fight with her father: I get that at this point she was too distressed to care about the damage – or even consider herself worthy of causing any. I thought her kiss with Justin was, though, remarkably selfish and a little unrealistic. Someone with self-esteem as little as hers I thought odd to even initiate a first kiss, particularly after having broken down so much prior to it. Justin was not all that obvious about liking her in that manner, hence the very idea that she expected him to kiss her back and had not contemplated that she was not ‘good enough’ or ‘worthy’ or ‘his type’ when her depression and self-esteem were so extreme on both ends of the scale struck me as peculiar. After a while, they did get together, but to the reader it did seem a bit like Justin had no other choice. He explained that he just wasn’t sure how their relationship could work and did actually like her: but what would you do if after you rejected someone, they had tried to end their life? Moreover, if you were the person that had attempted suicide, would you believe the person that had rejected you prior? It all just seemed rather forced. I would like to read a book about depression that does not rely on a romantic relationship to make the other person ‘live happily’; a relationship is not the only way life can be beautiful. I also found that most of the book could do with more development; there were few paragraphs over three lines long, which meant that everything felt a bit rushed. For instance, Olivia seemed to go from a stranger to best friend in less than a day and a little rude about prodding Cierra for information about her depression. I did not get Ruth at all. She had no motives to stab Cierra’s dad… or try to kill Cierra really… or give Justin amnesia. I suppose her instability and protective nature over Justin after the car accident is an explanation, but honestly it seemed very dramatic and far-fetched.
The book was quite abstract in that the ideas and themes were there, but there was a dearth of development and realistic explanations. May did show depression in quite an accurate way most of the time, so I think this is an area she has a lot of potential in building on. I am unsure on who the audience would be for this book since there were several cliché moments and the language was simplistic so would appeal to what the urban dictionary refers to as ‘tweens’, but depression and suicide is too heavy for this age so maybe over 14s. Those that like a fast-paced story with some sweet aspects would really enjoy this book. 

Friday, 5 August 2016

Extraordinary Means

Author: Robyn Schneider
Rating: 10/10
Published: 26th May, 2015
Publisher Harpercollins
Genre: Young Adult

Hey guys!!
I've just gotten back from my holiday to Greece. It was so lovely, I've got a sort of tan, but i don't really tan that well I just burn. I read Extraordinary Means in Greece, it took me two days and it was wonderful. I also finished Throne Of Glass by Sarah. J .Maas and I'm still reading Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain.
I'm going to keep this review short and sweet.

I would usually split up the review into things I liked and disliked, but I didn't find anything I disliked about this book.

This book is clever and very well crafted, as the setting is a school/hospital for young people who have been infected with Tuberculoses. The teenagers are cut off from society so they won't infect any one else. It's quite hard to imagine what that would be like for someone to experience being secluded of from our world, but also from your loved ones, your family and friends having to speak to you through a mask or a glass screen.

The world that the five teenagers live in is full of death and abrupt endings, but somehow they still continue to have fun and make the most of what they have been given and work with it. The book is a bittersweet comedy, as most of the jokes the characters say are to do with their illness, again this links in to the fact that they make do with what they're given. If all you're reminded of everyday is that you must eat, sleep and excersise of satisfactory amount, then you're going to make morbid jokes about TB.

This book is very similar to The Perks Of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky and Looking For Alaska by John Green. Where you have a group of misfits friends who make it clear to other people that they want to stand out and be different and that they aren't normal. The characters are also similar as well, this should no way decrease your interest to read this book, it is brilliant, but the English Literature student in me will naturally compare these books due to similarity.

As I said before the five teens are very free and film-like to how they're living their life in Latham (the school/hospital), but I feel that they try and ignore the fact that they're actually ill and dying, so they push it to the back of their minds, but every time one of them coughs and splutters blood into a tissue it is like a relapse back into reality.

'Extraordinary Means is a heavyhearted depiction into our society' - Lydia Halsey