Friday, August 30, 2013

Divergent by Veronica Roth : Review

Sixteen-year old Tris is forced to make a terrible choice. In a divided society where everyone must conform, Tris does not fit.

So she ventures out alone, determined to discover where she truly belongs. Shocked by her brutal new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her.

The hardest choice lies ahead.

           Star Rating

So here we have it, my first ever five star rating! I had heard so many good things about this book and had high hopes before reading it. Thankfully I wasn't let down; it really did live up to the hype. 

Divergent is a dystopic novel based around an imagined universe where humans are divided into different factions. Each faction holds a different value which it's members must live by. The Dauntless (brave), the Erudite (intelligent), the Amity (peaceful), the Abnegation (selflessness) and the Candor (honest). 

Anyone who loves dystopian tales will adore this book as Veronica Roth creates a haunting vision of the future perfectly. 

The story centers around Tris, a 16 year old Abnegation girl  who, upon coming of age, must choose the faction she wants to spend the rest of her life in. Ultimately, it is this decision that sets up the action for the rest of the book and the reader becomes aware of the rights and wrongs of Tris' decision.   

This story reminds us of the value of belonging to a group - a family, a club, a class, a society. As Roth explains, "To live factionless is not just to live in poverty and discomfort: it is to live divorced from society, separated from the most important thing in life: community." However, as the story progresses Tris' view on society changes and thus raises questions about divisions in our own communities and how, even in today's world, humans are unable to live as one united society. 

The characters in 'Divergent' are very real and their personalities change as different events unfold. Intertwined with the dystopic events, Roth manages to include subplots of bullying, friendship and romance - always a recipe for success in a YA novel. The chapters are short and, like many other successful books, leave the reader wanting to read on and discover more. 

The ending of this story is superb and leads on well to the next in the series. I personally can't wait to read 'Insurgent' which has been waiting patiently on my bookshelf for a while now. And with even more exciting breaking news, 'Allegiant' (the third book in the series) should be on it's way to my flat courtesy of Harper Collins very soon!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Percy Jackson & The Lightening Thief (graphic novel) by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson & The Lightning Thief 
The Graphic Novel
by Rick Riordan

Percy Jackson is about the be kicked out of boarding school and that's the least of his troubles. Lately, mythological monsters and the Gods of Mount Olympus seems to be walking straight out of the pages of Percy's Greek mythology textbook and into his life. And worse, he's angered a few of them. Zeus' master lightening bolt has been stolen and Percy is the prime suspect. 

Star Rating

With the second film out in cinemas and having still not seen the first, I thought I should jump on the Percy Jackson band wagon. As mentioned in previous posts, I always like to read the book before I see the film so when I saw this beauty jumping out on the shelves of W.H Smiths I just had to buy it. I love graphic novels, particularly after having read the comic version of Coraline adapted and illustrated by P. Craig Russell. If you have seen the film/read the book please go and check out the graphic novel, it's amazing!
Having finished the Percy Jackson graphic novel, I was slightly annoyed that I hadn't read the book first. Obviously, much of the story content is cut down for a graphic novel and at times I found myself slightly confused as to what was happening. There seemed to be some strange gaps that made the story hard to follow and it often appeared disjointed in places. 

However, the art work is fantastic and it has definitely left me wanting to watch the films!


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Vengeance edited by Lee Child : Review

                                                         Star Rating
A special thanks to Atlantic Books publishers for this copy which I received for an honest review. 

'Mystery Writers of America presents Vengeance' is an anthology of high-octane crime stories edited by the crime legend, Lee Child. This was the first anthology I have ever read, personally preferring to read full novels, and I have to say it wasn't entirely my cup of tea. Although anthologies are great to dip in and out of when you don't have the time for an entire novel, I feel that the stories chosen for this book were very hit and miss. Some were fantastic! Some were disappointing.

The content of this book was selected by Lee Child and a panel of competition judges. As stated in the introduction, "10 high quality invitees and 10 high quality competition winners" feature in this anthology. Lee Child himself described the process as "like playing fantasy baseball - who did I want on the field?" I feel that in choosing his team, Lee Child made some unfortunate errors. I was disappointed by his own offering to the book which was not consistent with his usual high standard.

However, some of the short stories hidden within this book are top class and it is certainly worth reading through to find them. The themes included are extremely dark and disturbing and, for a horror film lover such as myself, are successful in grabbing the attention of the reader. This anthology addresses themes such as rape, suicide, terminal illness, molestation and murder. The following short stories are superbly written and a must read for lovers of crime fiction:

The Mother by Alafair Burke 
(although I did feel this story ended very abruptly)
The Unremarkable Heart by Karin Slaughter
Blood and Sunshine by Adam Meyer
River Secret by Anne Swardson
A Fine Mist Of Blood by Michael Connelly
Even A Blind Man by Darrell James

My favourite short story by far was 'Blood and Sunshine' by Adam Meyer. It was very reminiscent of a fantastic British horror film I watched recently on LoveFilm called 'The Children' where a relaxing Christmas break turns into a terrifying fight for survival as the children begin to turn on their parents. If you haven't seen this film make sure you check it out!

Although I have given the book as a whole 2 stars, there are definitely some hidden gems in here worth a lot more. It is a great book for lovers of crime fiction looking for something to dip into on a lunch break or on the train. You may even discover some new crime authors to add to your reading list! 

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Tethers by Jack Croxall : Review

Star Rating

Tethers was my second review request from the amazing, new author, Jack Croxall and I am so glad that I agreed to read this magical adventure story. Tethers tells the tale of Karl and Esther, two teens in the wake of a cold, Victorian winter, who discover an anonymous journal filled with strange passages and bizarre scribblings. To Karl and Esther's surprise, their names appear written in the book which leads them on a dangerous adventure of utmost importance and true peril.

As Karl and Esther journey deeper into trouble, they discover the viniculum, a mysterious stone with mythical properties. It is this viniculum that the rest of Jack Croxall's story centers around and I found myself eager to read on and discover the secrets that this peculiar stone would unfold. 

Being a book for young adults, the chapters are just the right length and Jack Croxall makes excellent use of suspense by including lots of cliff hangers. I found myself reading chapter after chapter, gripped by the adventure that was unfurling and wanting to discover more. This story is extremely well written and the dialogue between characters is highly believable, almost 'film like'. 

Jack Croxall has included some excellent setting descriptions which add to the film like quality of this story. The characters, objects and events included are reminiscent of films such as 'The Golden Compass', 'The Chronicles Of Narnia' and, of course, 'Harry Potter.' Without giving too much away, the viniculum, pictured on the front cover, was reminiscent of J.K Rowling's 'Mirror of Erised' and this story has a very similar magical and adventurous quality.

Although I loved this book, I could see some readers finding it difficult to get into as there is quite a lot of build up before the adventure begins. At times I found myself wishing that there was more reference to the magic of the stone and feel that this should maybe have come earlier on in the story.

Tethers, is the first in a series of books by Jack Croxall, and I will definitely be reading his next installment! It is a thoroughly enjoyable read and I would highly recommend it to all fans of YA fiction.

Like the sound of Tethers? You may also like Looking For Alaska by John Green

Thursday, August 22, 2013

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo: Review

Star Rating

"Some in the village, only a very few now and fewer as each year goes by, remember Joey as he was. His story is written so that neither he nor those who knew him, nor the war they lived and died in, will be forgotten."

I am a sucker for emotional animal tales. I was that kid who cried uncontrollably when they thought Shadow had died in 'Homeward Bound.' I was also that fully grown adult who cried hysterically when the dog died in 'Marley and Me'. I know what you're thinking... I must have some weird emotional attachment to dogs. Nope! I also cried like a baby in "Life Of Pi' when the tiger, Richard Parker, left. What can I say, I feel more empathy for animals than people.

War Horse

As predicted, this powerful story of trust and friendship, is deeply moving and I found myself wanting to cry having merely read the author's note. (Ridiculous I know). It tells the tale of the strong and fine horse, Joey, who is sold at market to go and live with a farmer and his son, Albert. Joey and Albert quickly build a deep bond and the horse is loved and cared for. Until the day Albert's father sells Joey to a captain in the cavalry and he is thrown into the chaos of war. Feeling betrayed and devastated, Albert promises that one day, somehow, he will find Joey and bring him home. 

At only 182 pages, this is a very short story but it has been written superbly. The right amount of detail and description is given by the author to make the reader really care about what happens to Joey and his friend Topthorn as they experience the perils of war. When I first discovered that the story was being told from the voice of the horse I must admit I did have a little chuckle to myself. It was a strange concept to be hearing about the First World War from the viewpoint of a HORSE but, surprisingly, it worked and it was more than just another 'horsey' book. 

Putting my teacher's hat on, I think this would be a fantastic book to use as a 'whole class read' for any year groups studying the First World War. It depicts the emotion, pain and turmoil of war and is a thoroughly enjoyable read! 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Wild Water by Jan Ruth: Review

Wild Water by Jan Ruth is my first ever review request from an author so I was slightly apprehensive as to whether it would be my cup of tea.I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and again managed to read the book in one sitting. 

Star Rating

Wild Water tells the story of Jack, a property manager, whose life very quickly begins to unravel as he watches everything collapse around him, including his marriage to his wife of 25 years, Patsy. At the same time, Jack becomes reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart Anna and, as old flames rise, Jack finds himself in a life changing situation that affects everyone around him.

This book is expertly written and very character driven; having read the first few chapters I felt I knew the characters really well and could empathise with Jack completely. I liked that the novel had been written mainly from Jack's point of view as this broke away from the norm of women's fiction and brought a very different perspective to the story. It was very interesting to read a story about adultery, betrayal and divorce with a male protagonist and I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with his actions. 

Jan Ruth's characters are real and full of emotion and I was particularly fond of Jack's young daughter Lottie who brought many humorous touches to the story. It was heart breaking to see the effect a parent's actions can have on their children as Jan Ruth explains, "One adult's failing can be like ripples on water."

The only thing I would say (and I know you shouldn't be sucked in by an image) is that the front cover does not do this story justice. It doesn't hold much relevance to the content of the story as it makes me think of horror/mystery and ghosts. But hey, maybe that's just me!

I am super glad I decided to review this book and will definitely be reading more of Jan Ruth's stories. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Bout Of Books August 2013

Bout of Books 

Being a blogging virgin, I only found out about Bout Of Books yesterday via Twitter. So I am a day late and VERY busy this week with a trip to Thorpe Park and a wedding in Manchester (3 and a half hours drive away for me). However, I like a challenge and I love reading so I decided to take part in the read-a-thon anyway. Who needs sleep ey?

I have set myself a target of 5 books and I am going to allow myself an extra day (seeing as I started late). 
I am starting with a review request, Wild Water by Jan Ruth, and then moving onto the following...


I know lots of you will be reading this shaking your heads in despair that I have not read these bestsellers yet but give me seven days and BOOM I will be part of the Divergent/Mortal Instruments/Hunger Games fan club (hopefully). I have heard really great things about them! As for War Horse, lots of people tell me the play/film is amazing and it's only 182 pages so I was kind of cheating with that one! 

Bout Of Books Challenge

Wild Water by Jan Ruth
City Of Bones, The Mortal Instruments Book One by Cassandra Clare
War Horse by Michael Morpurgo
Catching Fire, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Divergent by Veronica Roth

90's Kid Favourites!

So my goosebumps post got me reminiscing about the books I used to read when I was younger. Thanks to my mum and a good education I have grown up with a love of reading and, working as a primary teacher, I am able to pass this love on to the children I work with too. I remember being on holiday in America with my parents (around the age of 12) and being told off in the hire car for reading instead of taking in the sights. I did, and always will, have my nose in a book!

However, they don't make children's books like they used to!! I am a hardcore 90s kid... I loved the toys, I loved the TV shows, I loved the books! Check out some of these bad boys and then tell me you don't agree...


The Rainbow Fish was one of my all time favourites so imagine my excitement when my Year Three teacher told me I was going to play the part of 'octopus' in our class assembly. Some black Lycra and four pairs of stuffed tights later and there I was, in the best performance of 'The Rainbow Fish' the world has ever seen. I always will be jealous of the kid that played the rainbow fish.
I remember being very good at reading in primary school and progressing to the top set. Yes you heard right... The top set! *Takes a bow*. These absolute classics were then at the top of my reading list. Oh how I wish I had kept them!!


I can't mention 90's books without reminding everyone of these!
Hours of my childhood were spent squinting and going cross eyed in a desperate attempt to view a 3D picture. If only we knew that in 10+ years we would have 3D films and television at our fingertips. Pretty embarrassing really.

Calling all you scientists out there! PLEASE invent a time machine and take me back to my youth. I want to be a 90's kid again!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Dystopian Novels

I LOVE LOVE LOVE anything dystopian whether it be novels, comics, films or television series. I particularly enjoyed the last couple of seasons of 'Black Mirror' by Charlie Brooker and if you guys haven't seen it yet make sure you check it out. Seasons 1 and 2 are on Netflix and are amaaazing. Particularly the speech by the guy at the end of 15 Million Merits (season 1). Anyone who knows me knows I love a good speech, my favourites including Timo Cruz at the end of Coach Carter and Optimus Prime at the beginning of Transformers. 

I was recently reminded by someone about the epic classic 'The Handmaid's Tale.' I remember reading this for my English Literature GCSE and will make sure I read it again very soon just for fun. 

The following books have also been recommended and I will add them to my 'To Read' list and post reviews ASAP.

Looking For Alaska : Review

Star Rating

At the time of reading I wasn't sure I was enjoying this book but I stuck with it and am really glad I did. This is a story that will stay with you long after finishing. It will pull at your heart strings and I found myself really empathising with the characters.

This is the story of Miles Halter whose life is one big nonevent. "The only thing worse than having a party that no one attends is having a party attended by only two vastly, deeply uninteresting people."
That is until he mees Alaska Young, 'the hottest girl in all of human history.' This book builds suspense well as John Green splits it into two sections: before and after. Each chapter is headed as days before/after an event that leaves the reader wondering what this mysterious event will be. Fortunately, I was not disappointed when the event was finally revealed and it was this that ultimately changed my mind about the greatness of this book.
John Green writes well and tells the tale of new friendships with great ease. He is also able to include some darker elements into the story which add to the mystery and suspense. 

Although this is a book for younger readers I would again recommend it to all ages. Another easy read from an extremely popular author however, I did prefer 'The Fault In Our Stars.' 
I will certainly be purchasing and reviewing some more of John Green's writing. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Geek Girl by Holly Smale : Review

May I begin by pointing out how amazing this book cover is!!! They say you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover but I am afraid I am guilty as charged.

Star Rating

This book for young adults tells the story of Harriet Manners, a Winnie The Pooh jumper wearing geek who is hated by Class 11A, Models in general and Hat Lady, among many others. Harriet doesn't seem to know why so many people dislike her so when she's offered the chance to reinvent herself Harriet grabs it. 

This was a very easy read and with such short chapters I found myself marching through it very quickly. Although the story was enjoyable and made me chuckle in a fair few places I would say it would appeal to a younger audience (12-16 year olds).

The book addresses themes of insecurity, vulnerability and teenage bullying which I am sure many younger readers will identity with during their difficult school years. Harriet's stalker 'Toby' adds a humorous subplot to the main story and reminded me of unwanted attention I've received in the past (You know who you are!)

This book has a 'Devil Wears Prada' feel to it and I would highly recommend it to young fans of fashion, beauty and films such as 'The Princess Diaries'. 

I am sure there will be many fans out there of Holly Smale eagerly awaiting the sequel with an equally amazing front cover! 

Review: The Perks Of Being a Wallflower

Star Rating
"This moment will just be another story someday."

- Stephen Chbosky, The Perks Of Being a Wallflower

So here goes... my first attempt at an insightful and useful book review. I picked up this book at the bargain price of £1.99 from the iTunes book store as I wanted to read it before watching the film. It is isn't a long book, at 202 pages, and I read it in one sitting which probably took me about 4 hours.

This book tells the story of 15 year old Charlie through a series of letters to an unnamed friend. Through these letters, we get an insight into the shy and quiet 'wallflower' that is Charlie. As the story progresses we see Charlie's character begin to change as he experiences the hardships of teenage life with his best friends Patrick and Sam. This book addresses both light and heavy issues that many teenagers would resonate with during their difficult school years. However, I do not feel that this book is solely for teenagers as, at 26 years of age, I thoroughly enjoyed it and found myself reminiscing back to my own school days.

Although the protagonist is a loveable character, I do feel that, at times, Chbosky made Charlie too vulnerable and naive and I often found myself wondering whether he was Autistic. I am interested to watch the film and see if Charlie is presented in the same way he appears in my mind.

This book is becoming ever popular and I would view it as a modern classic for young readers. It is an enjoyable and easy read and I would highly recommend it to all.