Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Review of 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell

Review of 'Fangirl' by Rainbow Rowell

Do you ever come across books that you just completely connect with on a personal level? I felt this so much with Fangirl, to the extent that I had to put it down a few times to take some breathers, because well, fuck, the book was really impacting me. In some ways, I wish I had come across it when I was 18, but in others I think it would have hit far far too close to home, and been too intense for me to handle. Retrospectively, I can see how much it would have upset me to read it, but I can also see how similar my life was to a couple of the characters, in particular Wren. 

Cather and Wren's mum didn't know she was having twins when they were born, and she had only one name in mind: 'Catherine'. So, they became Cather and Wren. The girls have been inseparable since birth, especially as their mum didn't stick around for too long. They were left to pick up the mess that was their dad, and everything that happened just served to bring them closer. They even share their number one passion: Simon Snow books (and the movies of course). Think Harry Potter but with vampires too. 

Magicath and Wrenegade are their online alter egos, fangirls of the Simon Snow tribe. They've been writing fanfiction together for years, but Wren's starting to pull away. Soon it's just Magicath writing, and she gathers a following of over 35K readers. Cath's no longer just writing for herself: she can feel the weight of a whole community on her shoulders.

When the pair head to university, Cath is distraught because Wren decides that she wants a new roommate. She cuts her hair short, gets rid of her glasses, and Cath feels alone in a world that she's always been paired in. As Wren embraces university life with parties, drinking and new guys, Cath becomes more introverted, and struggles to even find her way to continue writing fan fiction.

Fangirl is all about how everything changes at the start of university, but also tells us that it's okay for everything to change, even if it's scary.

I loved this novel, and would definitely recommend it to any YA fiction fans! Have you read it?

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Review of 'Frozen Charlotte' by Alex Bell

Review of 'Frozen Charlotte' by Alex Bell

I haven't read a modern horror book in YEARS. So long in fact, that I'm pretty sure the last one I read would have been part of the Goosebumps series. FYI, I loved that, but somehow I fell out of love with all things creepy. I'm just not a horror sort of girl. Scary films overwhelm me and give me nightmares, and I'm more of a fan of a classic Gothic novel than anything written this century. It's far too close to home. But, Frozen Charlotte was part of 2016's Autumn Zoella book club and I couldn't resist giving it a try. Despite being totally petrified by the plot of the novel, I found the whole adrenaline rush of reading something that scary incredible. I definitely will be keeping an eye out for more Alex Bell books in the future.

Frozen Charlotte begins with a ouija board app. Two friends, Sophie and Jay decide to try and contact the dead from Jay's phone in their favourite cafe. They pick Sophie's dead cousin, Rebecca, who passed away in a tragic accident when she was seven. As they attempt to contact her, the lights in the cafe go out, and a waitress is badly burnt by hot cooking oil. Sophie thanks Jay for holding her hand when it all got a lil scary, but Jay denies touching her. His last question to the board was 'when will I die?'. The reply? 'Tonight'. 

Jay doesn't make it through the night, and Sophie needs answers. Was her cousin's spirit responsible for Jay's death? She heads to the Isle of Skye to visit her uncle and Rebecca's brother and sisters, Cameron, Lilias and Piper. From the offset nothing sits right. Cameron's no longer the sweet boy she remembers, and Lilias is constantly spooked. Within the first few nights, Sophie starts having extreme nightmares and feeling unsafe in the house. And the tiny porcelain 'frozen Charlotte' dolls in her dead cousin's room don't exactly help either ...

Have you read it? What did you think?

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Review of 'Sophie's World' by Jostein Gaarder

Review of 'Sophie's World' by Jostein Gaarder

Sophie's World has been sat on my bookshelves since I was about ten years old. I think it was actually a present for my sister when we were kids: her name's Sophie and the gift-giver thought it was funny. I imagine they overlooked the fact that it was a deep philosophical text that I struggled a little to get my head around over the past few weeks.

This novel is without a doubt completely mind-blowing. It totally turned on its head what I thought of the world and of novels about 17 times, and I was genuinely astounded by so many areas of progression in the text.

If you don't want any spoilers, then look away now! Sophie's World begins with a young girl called Sophie receiving letters about philosophy in her mailbox. They start all the way back at the Ancient Greek Philosophers, and with each new envelope comes a new development in the history of philosophy. Sophie is scared that her mother will find out about her secret correspondence with a philosopher, so she does all she can to meet him in person.

However, as Albert Knox, the philosopher, continues to teach her, stranger and stranger things happen. Sometimes he calls her Hilde, and she keeps getting postcards addressed to this girl sent to her. Soon strange things start popping up in her town and in her home; things that she's never seen before. As things start to get more and more surreal, we leave the story behind, and realise that actually, Sophie's world is in itself a story. A story created by Hilde's father for her 15th birthday. All of the postcards sent to Hilde c/o Sophie arrived at Hilde's home by being inserted into the novel. Am I making sense? The book gets seriously trippy here, and had me sat back thinking about how everything made sense and yet made no sense at the same time.

If you want to learn more about philosophy, and see the linear structure of a novel completely turned on its head at the same time, then I would highly recommend reading Sophie's World! 

Have you read it? What did you think?

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Review of 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte

Review of 'Villette' by Charlotte Bronte

I LOVE the Brontes. Wuthering Heights is my favourite book in the entire world, and Jane Eyre comes up pretty close too. I've even read the slightly less well known Anne Bronte. Having said all of that, I really didn't fall in love with Villette as much as I did with the other novels.

Villette felt kinda torturously long. I mean, I've read a billion and one long novels from the same period, but this really felt like it dragged. I just couldn't connect with the protagonist Lucy Snowe as much as I've done with similar heroines. Everything about her just felt a little 2D. We  whizzed through her childhood and then spent the majority of the novel bound up in just a couple of years of her trying to find her way in the world. It was a sort of 'coming of age story' but without the romance I felt.

I mean, there was actual romance in the novel, just no stylistic romance. Lucy fell in love with a close family friend, Dr Bretton, and he was kind to her, but threw her aside as soon as he found a younger, prettier, richer replacement. He was never really intending to go any farther than friends with Lucy, but she didn't quite see this.

I think the main reason why I didn't get on with the novel is because I didn't find Lucy's character admirable, or particularly intriguing. She works at a school for girls in France, and a teacher who works alongside her is utterly vile to her. He makes her cry, feel out of place and feel inferior at every possible opportunity. But later in the novel we learn that he's a great philanthropist, and this makes him some kind of hero deemed worthy of Lucy's love??? He's even made out to seem like some kind of martyr for loving Lucy even though she's a Protestant. And naturally his behaviour is explained away as 'just the way he is'. It's kind of like the whole 'boys will be boys thing' *rolls eyes*.

You get a slightly similar relationship in Jane Eyre, with Mr Rochester being quite unfriendly to the governess, Jane, but it's definitely not on anywhere near as large a scale. All in all, I'm glad that I saw another side to Bronte's writing, but I can definitely see why Jane Eyre has remained the more popular novel!

Have you read it? What did you think?

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Review of 'I Am Death' by Chris Carter

Review of 'I Am Death' by Chris Carter

I'm a big fan of crime dramas on TV. NCIS, CSI, the Mentalist, Dexter: you name it, I've probably at least dabbled in watching it. However, I've never branched out into reading crime novels. Agatha Christie is not a novelist whose work I've even attempted, and I've avoided all other great crime novelists bar Raymond Chandler. 

I Am Death follows Detective Robert Hunter and his partner's attempts to catch the work of one of the most horrific serial killers they've had the misfortune to engage with yet. The killer subverts all serial killer norms: he approaches the police directly (covering his tracks of course), taunts them, and changes his MO every single time he kills. Each murder is carried out on an unsuspecting female, who he has no persona relation to. The only similarity between each killing is that they maximise the amount of pain that the victim feels. And that the message 'I Am Death' is found with each body.

The Monster also keeps captive a young boy. This boy is named Squirm, and is forced to watch all of the killings: he is punished if he looks away. Squirm is mistreated in every way possible, and dehumanised to the point of being completely stripped of his name; it is replaced with Squirm. 

The investigation hot up with each new taunt, especially when the killer visits Detective Hunter's home, sliding a threatening letter under his door. 

Have you read it? What did you think?


Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Review of 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen

Review of 'Persuasion' by Jane Austen

This is the third Jane Austen novel that I've attempted in my life, and the second that I've completed. Before reading Persuasion I really did hate her works. Pride and Prejudice is one of only a handful of books that I've started reading and not completed because I simple couldn't stand it, and Mansfield Park didn't win the author any favours with me either. But I think we've finally had a little breakthrough: Persuasion was tolerable, in fact it was even enjoyable. I'm kinda starting to see what the Austen hype is all about.

Anne Elliot, the novel's heroine is someone I can relate to. She's an Austen heroine who doesn't accept the first man that toodles along, and acts with a reasonable level of maturity. Anne's family are sinking financially, and her father needs to take some rapid action to save them from plunging into debt. Since the death of her mother, Anne has been a little isolated from the heart of the family - her sister Elizabeth and her father are eternally in cahoots, and they look down on her. But, she knows that a friend of the family, Lady Russell, holds sway with the pair, and between them they persuade the rest of the Eliots to downsize their home.

This isn't the biggest change for Anne however, as she soon goes to visit her sister whilst the remainder of her family move to Bath (a place she doesn't particularly enjoy). There she learns that a man she once loved as a young girl has returned from overseas. She listened to the advice from her family and Lady Russell, went against her heart's desire, and broke off her engagement from him. He was deemed to be beneath marrying an Elliot. Now, seven years on, he's made his way up in life, and Anne is more mortified than ever at her past actions.

Will she see if they can repair a seven year rift? Or will she succumb to other men's persuasions?

Have you read it? What did you think?

Monday, 20 March 2017

Review of 'Ceremony' by Leslie Marmon Silko

Review of 'Ceremony' by Leslie Marmon Silko

This was the most eye-opening and thought-inspiring book that I've read in a long time. It's also the first adult book that I've ever read that discusses the life of a Native American. This is honestly a novel which I think we should all read. It discusses good and evil, life and death, war and peace and all the grey areas in between in a variety of different forms. As well as narrative we have poems, which are more like oral ceremonies of tradition. These intertwine with the main plot of the novel as it draws towards a close. 

Ceremony's main character is Tayo, a young man suffering from post traumatic stress disorder after returning fighting in World War II. He is consumed by guilt after the deaths of his cousin Rocky and uncle Josiah. After the war, Tayo spends a few years in a mental institution, trying to recover from the hallucinations and physical symptoms of his PTSD. He gets a little better, and returns to his home with his auntie, but is by no means anywhere near recovered.

Tayo has been an outsider his whole life. His mother abandoned him when he was young, and his father was one of a possible myriad of white men, making him mixed race. Although he lives with his auntie and Grandma, he knows he is not respected by the community they live in as being a 'true' member of the family. 

He turns to alcohol to deal with the trauma of being a war veteran, as do his closest friends. The story of Tayo's recovery from being on the battlefront is interspersed with memories from the war, and his childhood and stories from folklore. The novel in itself becomes a sort of 'ceremony' of recovery. Tayo uses old Pueblo methods of healing to help move forward, and the modern story of the war is bound up in these.

I would definitely recommend reading this! Have you read it? What did you think?