Saturday, 27 December 2014

My Thoughts On: The Humans by Matt Haig

Hello Humans!

Back into the swing of reading and praising a truly excellent book - The Humans by Matt Haig!

After an ‘incident’ one wet Friday night where he is found walking naked through the streets of Cambridge, Professor Andrew Martin is not feeling quite himself. Food sickens him. Clothes confuse him. Even his loving wife and teenage son are repulsive to him. He feels list amongst a crazy alien species and hates everyone on the planet. Everyone that is, except Newton, and he’s a dog. Who is he really? And what could make someone change their mind about the human race? 


Telling the story of Professor Andrew Martin, The Humans’ concept reminded me partly of Stephanie Myers’s The Host. Alien comes to earth taking the form of a human, its mission taking a turn for the worse (or better) when they become acquainted with their human family. But fear not. There was something oddly refreshing about this, with splashes of darkness that were not only unexpected, but beautiful in part too. 

The voice was also original and funny. Our unnamed narrator is witty, taking the simplest concepts such as clothes, and making actual human readers question them in a whole different way. These could borderline on existential crisis inducing, but the wit and human give them a certain lightness, often making them laugh-out-loud-able. Haig’s choice of voice gave us strong narration and  character immediately, something that carried me through the rest of the novel.


Concise structure with short chapters made The Humans particularly appealing for me too, it kept my interest and helped me really care for the characters. Phrasing was also specially chosen, which gave the book a poetic tone. The author’s note and acknowledgements suggest Haig wrote this ‘in the midst of a panic disorder’ but his view of the world remains dreamy and philosophical in The Humans. He almost has adopted the view of an observational comedian whose jokes almost everyone can relate to. Favourite quotes include: ‘Humans as a rule, don’t like mad people unless they are good at painting, and only then once they are dead.’ But overall, there are much deeper parts to this which swing between heart wrenching and heart warming. It’s a warm hug but also a stab in the stomach.

Andrew’s son Gulliver spoke to me the most. I bought this book in the hope it would pull me out of a prolonged bad mood so could partially empathise with how he was feeling. Gulliver is where the darker element comes in but Haig handles this with sensitivity, and I knew the character was in safe hands knowing of Haig’s past with mental health problems. Darker undertones made our narrator figure out not only love, but also hate and self loathing. I had the strongest image in my mind for Gulliver and wished him every happiness.

In summary: I couldn’t fault the humans. It was medicine in book form, an incredible tale of what it means to be human, to love and to hate, unravelling our life forms into something ‘literally wonderful.’ Thank you, Matt Haig. Five stars 

Have you read The Humans? What did you think? Raved about or repelled by, let me know in the comments!

Lucy 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Sorry...


Greetings!

Wow - it's been a while hasn't it? I've let this little project fall to the wayside over the past couple of months, unfortunately because of the wonderful world of school. In the summer I got really into the whole blogging thing and letting it slack has been a real shame for me (and maybe you... maybe...)

But never fear! In true New Year's Resolution stye, I'm getting back on the blogging bandwagon. Or trying to anyway. Reading is my most favourite thing, and writing about it makes it one hundred times better - so I'm really grateful to have access to this platform! 

Apart from apologising profusely, and wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, I don't really have much to say. I have a feeling I have lost the interest of my few followers after such a long break, so if you're still sticking around - thank you so so much. It means a lot when people take an interest in what I have to say, even if you read and don't comment.

So yes, have a fab Christmas period, if you celebrate this kind of thing, and I'll have a whole host of posts in store for the near future!

Lucy 

Friday, 5 September 2014

My Thoughts On: If I Stay by Gayle Forman

Hello!

Today a slightly harsher take on If I Stay by Gayle Forman!

Life can change in an instant. A cold February morning . . . a snowy road . . . and suddenly all of Mia's choices are gone. Except one.As alone as she'll ever be, Mia must make the most difficult choice of all.Gripping, heartrending and ultimately life-affirming, If I Stay will make you appreciate all that you have, all that you've lost - and all that might be.
Since the movie adaptation comes out soon, I decided to do the rightful thing and read the book first, to justify a viewing. While obviously the film producers saw something in this, unfortunately I failed to see what was so special. Maybe they liked it for the wrong reasons.

Starting with the positives: If I Stay is a well-crafted book. Simple, but in this case effective. Set over one day, starting just before the tragedy, we view this near perfect picture of family life before it descends into chaos and Mia ultimately feels alone -  before her boyfriend Adam saves the day. It's a short book - 196 pages in the Kindle edition; I think that was fitting for the chain of events. Anymore and it would’ve become more of a drag to read. I also liked the flashbacks to begin with, so we could have some family background, but eventually I just wanted to learn Mia’s fate. It was probably my short attention span, but nonetheless effective to get background directly to readers.


Moving on, the plot depends highly on character reaction. The way Mia's extended family deals with the accident, like her grandparents and Adam, was realistic enough. Forman's worked cleverly with balance of emotion - not making it too depressing for readers while keeping then interested throughout. I'd say Adam was my favourite character, as well as Teddy, but that's expected considering he's a cute young kid. Although Mia and Adam's relationship appears perfect to start, the cracks soon begin to show. I appreciated this greatly. I've just about had enough of perfect teenager relationships in YA so this was definitely welcome. The pair actually arguing over stuff, with a bit of drama thrown into the mix. While it wasn't Jeremy Kyle material which I was grateful for - the balance was near perfect.

Before I get negative, I'll also mention that there was nothing wrong with the actual writing. Filled with meaningful lessons and lots of highlight-able stuff. I do have to say though, my main gripe about the book meant I couldn't enjoy this element much at all, which saddened me.

Call me heartless, but I didn't feel any emotion towards any of the characters. Yes the situation is traumatic and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but the fact Mia experiences it through an out of body shock, made it an emotionless ride for me. I cared little for Teddy and her parents. Even though Gramps has a supposedly heart wrenching scene crying over Mia, I felt nothing. In my opinion this was a major flaw. I did understand the author’s intentions however.  Have all the emotion rush back to her once Adam appears. She wanted us on tenterhooks until he last five pages. But how do you expect readers to get there if they feel no compassion for the majority? It didn’t make sense to me. I also understand the shock – Mia’s in a coma after all – she’s unlikely to feel anything. But I don’t think this angle worked at all for this reason.


Despite the initial criticism for TFIOS by John Green, I still felt deeply affected by it. If I Stay got nothing from me. It feels as though Forman is jumping on the bandwagon, that’s what the film producers want too. Maybe this was because it was a short book, but I didn’t connect with the characters or story at all, unfortunately. Maybe this will translate better on screen, with actual faces to put to names, but I’m unsure whether it’s worth taking the risk.

In summary: I only found one flaw with If I Stay, but it was a pretty big one. A well-crafted, well written story, but with characters I just didn’t care about. Major issue.  I so wanted to like this, but have no desire to re-read or see the film. 2.5 stars. 

Have you read If I Stay? What did you think? Love it or hate it, let me know in the comments!

Lucy

Friday, 29 August 2014

My Thoughts On: The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting by Holly Bourne

Hello!

With its bold cover and beautiful design, The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting screamed 'buy me' in book shops. So that's exactly what I did. Hope you enjoy!

Bree is a loser, a wannabe author who hides behind words. But when she's told she needs to start living a life worth writing about, The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting is born. Six steps on how to be interesting. Six steps that will see her infiltrate the popular set, fall in love with someone forbidden and make the biggest mistake of her life.


The concept was another reason decided to read. Because of my odd and typically teenage attitude recently, I've felt a little lost in the world where socializing, looking good and doing things outside of school to be accepted are important. Often I question whether I'm interesting enough, and feel a bit lonely. Seeing an author fathom this creation shows she recognizes those feelings, which made me feel better. Right away I thought things would go wrong, but as Bree transformed herself, I couldn't help smile for her. It's something I've imagined doing many times, reinventing myself. I also often think if I did more interesting things, I'd have more to write about, so this was a concept and plot line I could partly relate to. It was a welcome, refreshing read that I enjoyed immensely.

Bree’s narration was an interesting one. She could perhaps be called unreliable - but I also felt sad for and disliked her in equal measure because she felt the need to change herself - even though I relate. Although she lives in luxury, has a great best friend in the form of Holdo at the beginning, and seems to live comfortably, Bree's insecure. The self-harm references throughout showed this.  Especially at the start, she gave the impression of a spoilt rich kid who’s dissatisfied with her life, blaming her parents. However I warmed to Bree as the book progressed. Some of the stuff she goes through with Holly Bourne’s silky yet raw writing had me crying because of the memories it brought up. I think this shows how good it was.
I read somewhere that the writer’s ultimate goal is to emotionally affect the reader, and that’s exactly what Bourne did. Applause for making me feel things, Holly.  

Another strong point was Holdo. He was excellent, even though Bree promptly abandons him. It’s like he was waiting in the shadows or behind a stage curtain, waiting for his dramatic entrance, and that’s exactly what happens. Their friendship is so strong, despite them spending the majority of the book separated. Each character was recognizable, as I think Hugo and Jassmine are well known breeds of human all over the place. Maybe it was the names, but the ‘perfect posse’ as they’re known, reminded me of Made in Chelsea characters. Mostly unlikeable twats, sometimes human. I guess that’s the way to describe them.  

On a more negative side, I did question Mr Fellows’ relationship with Bree. I won’t go into detail for fear of spoilers, but it’s not the conventional student-teacher one. While I found it plausible, at times it got a little melodramatic and the believably wavered. It was clear Bourne did her research but I wanted to cringe at certain parts, especially when Bree uses his first name. Some scenes were beautiful, like in the art gallery, which Bree returns to twice in the novel, but there were a few metaphorical bumps here and there in this aspect of Manifesto.

My second slight criticism I think would depend on my mood. If I was feeling self-indulgent and going through a ‘adoring fluffy books’ phase - I probably would have loved the ending. I mean, I did love it. It was heart-warming and touching and brilliant, but there was a tiny cynical part of my mind that went ‘that’s convenient.’  I was happy for Bree, even though the ending’s not perfect and she does experience her fair share of trauma, and again it was plausible. Maybe just a little unrealistic. I’m not sure. I think that one's down to personal opinion; I doubt there’s a unanimous answer.

In summary: The Manifesto On How To Be Interesting is the perfect book for anyone feeling a little lost, and came along just at the right time. Sometimes beautiful, sometimes teary, sometimes cringe-y. Overall however, a largely enjoyable and uplifting tale. 4.5 stars.

Lucy


Friday, 22 August 2014

Finished Kindle Books (Part 1)

Hey there! 

(Apologies for not uploading last week, I was on holiday and have been busy. A slightly different post for you today, hope you enjoy!) 

I have to admit it: I’m one of those annoying technology obsessed e-reader people. I received one of the first generations of Amazon’s ‘Kindle’ for my birthday in 2010 and now own a Kindle Fire. While e-readers have been fatal in me falling into the ‘buying books then never actually reading them’ habit, I do have a large number of finished titles stored up. This is in no way a review of the device itself, more a short summary of each book. If however this post does inspire you to try out an e-reader, do let me know!


So - without further ado - and in no particular popularity order:  

'Thirteen Reasons Why' by Jay Asher – one of the first books I read dealing with suicide, maybe I was a little too young to fully ‘get’ this one. A gripping concept nevertheless, well worthy of giving a try!  

'Shift' by Em Bailey – a goose bump inducing, psychological thriller and a window into schizophrenia. Strong characters and a punchy twist.  

'Flip' by Martyn Bedford – a slightly odd and unnerving read, about a boy who finds himself in someone else’s body, having to live a strange double life!

'Boys Don’t Cry' by Malorie Blackman – a twist on the conventional teen pregnancy. This time the boy’s left holding the baby. The first book I read on my kindle which definitely didn’t disappoint.

'Double Cross' by Malorie Blackman (forth in the popular ‘Noughts and Crosses’ series) – This installment of the racism based story gives an insight into Callie, growing up in a twisted world.

'The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting' by Holly Bourne (review coming soon) – this one reduced me to tears in some parts. Certainly relatable and for anyone who’s feeling a little bit lost. Contemporary YA that gripped me throughout.

'Inside My Head' by Jim CarringtonA multi POV book looking at bullying, realistic and raw. The characters really shine through in this heart-warmingly British novel.

'Cherry Crush,' 'Marshmallow Skye' and 'Summer Dream' by Cathy Cassidy (the first three of the Chocolate Box Girls series) – Personally I think these are for younger readers, so when I read them when I was 13 or so I was enthralled. Typically Cathy Cassidy with friendships, love etc, but still addressing some darker issues too

'The Perks of Being a Wallflower' by Stephen Chbosky – I’d go as far as to say this is one of my favourite books of all time. Set in the ‘80’s following shy boy Charlie as he makes his journey through high school, it’s relatable and sweet and sometimes dark. A must read.

'Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist' by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan – a typical American whirlwind romance. It takes place all in one night and features 24 hour Waffle Houses and indie music. A guilty pleasure.

'The Hunger Games' by Suzanne Collins (first in the Hunger Games trilogy) – Most people would have heard of this one. One of the finest dystopian thrillers with the expected romance and rebellion. Might not live up to the hype some have built however.

'Matched' by Ally Condie – I’ll be blunt and say I didn’t enjoy this at all. Another dystopian, but I found the characters one dimensional and the story slow. Didn’t live up to expectations for me, unfortunately.

'Strictly Friends' by Jo Cotterill (second in the Sweet Hearts companion novels) Similar to Cassidy, Cotterill gripped me a young teen. Another for younger readers but as I remember a sweet story that tells you to not give up on your dreams.

'Just Listen'by Sarah Dessen – This was a surprise in a big way. Yes it was a little cliché but I found myself learning and taking everything in from the mysterious Own as Annabel does.  

'Room' by Emma Donoghue – You could describe this as a psychological thriller, or brilliantly disturbing. Narrated by five year old Jack, we get his view of his mother being kidnapped by Old Nick. His naivety works so well and his voice is charming. Recommended.  

That’s about half of my finished kindle collection documented for your enjoyment. If you’ve read any of these and have shockingly conflicting views to me, I’d love to hear your opinions!

Lucy

Thursday, 21 August 2014

It's A Disease

Hello!


(Warning: this post includes some serious cheese, and 'inspirational' quotes... I'm feeling particularly sentimental right now...) 

Earlier today, my dad was talking about his recent trip to Alaska he took to fish. He said, 'Fishing isn't a hobby unfortunately, it's a disease,' and it was one of the rare occasions where I actually agreed with him wholeheartedly about something. Obviously I don't have strong opinions on salmon or anything, but it did make me think. I was really glad he came out with that metaphor; it sparked something in me.

I hate to admit it, but I've been in a bit of a writing slump recently. At the beginning of the summer I had grand plans to start editing a full length piece of writing, but sadly I've had little success. I had a burst of inspiration thanks to a work shop or two, and some kind words, but other than that my attempts have been fruitless. I don't know what my issue's been. 



It could be my lack of time: I have actually been abnormally social this summer, so have been enjoying the time I have with friends. 

It could simply be lack of ideas: I might just be brain dead and have block... which would suck. Alot.

Or it could be fear: Fear of things being bad. Fear of being disappointed in myself or disappointing other people. 

What I can say though, is it's not a lack of motivation. Some might argue that if I really was that motivated, I would find time and ideas and not be scared about something so small. But there has been so many times when I've tried to write but nothing has transferred onto the page. When I've tried to plan but my mind's been a big empty space. It's very annoying, but today I realized something thanks to my father spouting random poetry. 



As cliche as it sounds, writing is kind of like a disease to me. Even when I've pointlessly felt like I'll never write another good word in my life, the stories haven't left my mind. I still think about the characters, and even when I listen to certain songs they remind me of plots. I haven't lost enthusiasm for any of the worlds I've created and it's still one of the things I love most in the world (except cats, cats always win...) and I know that one day I'll sit down to write and snap out of it. The words will come like they used to. Hopefully.

I know I'm not special. I know this is probably just a stupid case of writer's block. Or laziness. Or or lack of time, heightened fear. But from now on, I really need to push myself in the right direction, and get some damn words written. Power through it, rather than sitting on my arse and wishing. Otherwise I'll never forgive myself. 


Is anyone in a similar situation? Do you have ways to get out of a writing slump? Let me know!


Lucy 

Friday, 8 August 2014

My Thoughts On: Trouble by Non Pratt


Hola! 

Another long awaited read... Trouble by Non Pratt! 

Hannah’s smart and funny ... she’s also fifteen and pregnant. Aaron is new at school and doesn't want to attract attention. So why does he offer to be the pretend dad to Hannah’s unborn baby? Growing up can be trouble but that’s how you find out what really matters.


I heard about 'Trouble' through BookTube (the bookish side of YouTube) and after reading a number of articles and writing tips by Non Pratt, I decided to give this a go. I knew - of course - what was going to happen. A teen pregnancy and everything in between, the cover told me right away. But 'Trouble,' while a little predictable, was mostly refreshing, way more than your average pregnancy story. Each component was well crafted and executed, and it was certainly an easy read. When you're up until almost 2am still reading on more than one occasion, you don't question whether it's a good book or not.

While the plot was a little overused (although some could argue everything has been done by one person or another) what Pratt definitely made up with were her characters. Hannah and Aaron. Aaron and Hannah, these two were well fleshed out and seemed like the person everyone has met at least once in their own school. They each enter the story with some sort of front. Hannah has this bravado that's initially hard to see through, whilst Aaron's playing the shy boy in order to forget his darker past. On the sidelines is also Hannah's best friend Katie, who I considered her 'partner in crime' when it came to guys and the meetings in the park that went hand in hand with Friday nights. Pratt's done especially well at having both Hannah and Aaron put up this facade, and knocking it down subtly as the book progresses. In reality they're both quite vulnerable and take comfort in each other's company. Aaron is a particularly complex character who I enjoyed learning about. It broke my heart when he finally started opening up to people because that was what he found so difficult. See, real people. You could meet them anywhere and that's why 'Trouble's' characters were a definite win for me. 

Aside from the characters, one of Trouble's main highlights was that it wasn't all about the pregnancy. There is alot of sex and various people getting with each other - which obviously eventually leads to Hannah's pregnancy - but there are so many other threads that bring the story together and make it far more realistic than other pregnancy novels. We've got Aaron's past, Hannah and Katie's friendship, views on relationships, family matters on both sides. The pregnancy, in some senses, took a back seat. It was always there, as a catalyst for many of Hannah's problems, but Pratt was able to cleverly and smoothly transition between different threads. The plot all fitted together seamlessly. It really did feel like I was reading someone's diary; none of it was contrived or melodramatic, and I would say Trouble is an emotionally charged book - the atmosphere fluctuating with Hannah's hormones and Aaron's disturbing dreams. Mostly realistic and seamless.


The teenage culture of meeting in a park on Friday nights, parties etc, was a little new to me. [Note: I come from an all girls school so haven't had much interaction with the male species, nor am I popular so don't go to house parties sorry not sorry] but I was able to believe it and bought right into the atmosphere. It was a tiny bit cliche, but alot of stuff seems to happen at parties so I wasn't irritated by it. The dialogue surrounding these gatherings was natural, and at some points I felt as though I was right with the characters, huddled in a cold park or in someone's dimly lit living room. I guess this is partly down to the natural voices; I got two perspectives - Hannah full of confidence towards the beginning and Aaron just trying to fit in. The atmosphere was genuine, something I highly value. 

Questions to who fathers Hannah's baby were the main thing that kept me going while reading 'Trouble.' While this worked well and the twist was unexpected, personally I think Pratt could have done so much more with the idea. The complex relationship Hannah has with the father had so much potential. It came as such a shock that I feared the plot could've taken a much darker turn, but this wasn't the case. Maybe this was my naturally disturbed brain, and this clearly wasn't the direction Pratt wanted to go in, but I think this could have shown a different side to teen pregnancy and made the plot slightly more original. You'll know what I'm on about if you do decide to read - which I'd definitely recommend - but that's all I can really say without throwing spoilers everywhere. Sorry.

In summary: While not groundbreaking, with a slightly overused plot, Trouble makes up for it with extremely realistic characters and genuine atmosphere. You won't want to put this one down - 4 stars. 


Lucy