Thursday 31 May 2012

Insecurity Revisited: In Which I Discuss MORE Things

Hello! What's that, I'm running back to the topic of insecurity in YA again so soon? I must have nothing else to post about! Which is true, I kind of don't, but I read this really wonderfully honest post on insecurity over on Bloggers Heart Books (please read it first, it's really awesome) and it kind of make me think even more about the topic, and more importantly my post on it and how I may have got a bit carried away with my one-sidedness. Which is something that, if you've read any of my other discussion posts, happens every single time. And it's something that I'm hoping to avoid today because I seriously need to start being more objective about things. And I completely stand by everything I said in that post, I think that they're valid points, but I think that I may have been so frustrated about the matter for more than the reasons I gave, and that maybe it's not insecure characters that irritate me, but for they way that it's portrayed. So, I guess this is more me trying to work out some of deeply inset issues than with it being about actual books. You're more than welcome to leave now if you want to, because I can't guarantee this won't just be a mishmash of greatly conflicting feelings, because that's kind of all I am at the minute. Anyway, I'm rambling.

So, I'm a pretty insecure person. I know this, and the fact that I know this and strive to change it, and yet cannot, frustrates me to no end. I analyse everything I do to a ridiculous extent and I over think all of my actions after I do them just to see if I might have offended anyone or done something bad, and I'm so concerned with the idea of changing myself to make other people like me more means that I kind of find it hard to accept who I am as a person. I don't like myself because I'm constantly concerned that everyone else hates me, and this just makes me not like myself even more and it's basically just a circle of horrible self-destructive horribleness, and my personal insecurities have affected my life as a young adult more that I ever like to accept or admit. Which is why I get so frustrated at YA sometimes.

In genres where insecurity isn't really needed to be a big 'issue' or whatever, and is just used in passing and is never really built on, it's very, very frustrating to me, and what I'm sure is swathes and swathes of other insecure teenagers (because let's face it, there are millions of us out there) because it's not treated like a serious problem. Which, y'know, it is. You can't just use it as a filler for when a character is looking in a mirror and then never bring it up again like the main character hates how they look, but not that much. I'm not saying that every book with an insecure lead should have it as the main thread though their book, but that it should be treated as a more serious issue than it sometimes is in books where being insecure isn't the whole point of it.

Insecurity is something that affects my life greatly, and it doesn't make me feel better about myself when I keep on reading about people who just get over it so quickly or forget about it at the drop of a hat. I can't relate to that. I can't believe that I'll just look in a mirror one day and never think I'm not pretty again, because that isn't relateable. As Julie said in her post, I guess I would secretly like to see more insecure characters of whom actually have a problem with themselves. Because it isn't always just about looks, it's about not being comfortable with who you are. And I don't think something like that can just be forgotten about, I think it takes work to get over and good friends and I really just want it to be portrayed better.

I'm a fifteen year old girl, which is basically the human equivalent of a boiling pot of hideous and contrasting emotions, and I'm, at my heart of hearts, a coward, because I can hardly face up to the truth about how I feel about things just with myself, let alone in front of people, so I hide behind my anger and indignity about things while trying to hide my feelings about the issue not just relating to books, but myself. See, as much as I cry at stuff, I'm kind of scared of feeling things, I guess? That sounds a bit weird, but I just don't like having to come to terms with stuff. I'm basically the living embodiment of denial.

But there isn't anything wrong with being insecure. It's something pretty much everyone goes through at some point in their lives, and I wish that it was dealt with in a more sensitive matter in books, but I also don't want it to be the only focal point of the plot. Because for a lot of people it isn't, it's something that comes with hard work, but also just with living life, and maybe if I stuck my head out of my fantasy world full of books where everything is perfect, I would realise that too. I just want it to be realistic rather than trivial, and reflect on a real teenagers perspective of themselves. Just stop using insecurity as some sort of gimmick. It isn't, and it's an insult to people if you do treat it as a less important matter than it is. It won't make me like your character more, and it won't make me feel like I can relate to them as much as people might think, I guess. I don't feel supported by these kind of characters (which aren't as common as I may be making out), I feel isolated by them, because they make me feel like my insecurity isn't important. That they got over it really quickly, so I must be really fucked up for not having done the same. I don't know, see, I told you this would just be a mish-mash of irrelevent feelings! *sighs* Okay, I think I might have got my point across by this point because I've basically just made the same point about seven times.

 Like how Julie said, I don't want to see less insecurity as a whole, I just want to see less of insecurity used in a half-asses way, and more well done, well fleshed out characters who are going through the process of accepting themselves as themselves. (Of which I know there are a lot of, but I just need to rant about stuff sometimes.)

So, I think this will be my last post on insecurity, before you think I'm running out of steam on post ideas. Again, this was kind of written more for myself, and I feel a lot better for writing it, so if you think it's stupid and stuff, that's cool. I feel like a weights been lifted off of my shoulder a bit, so it's all good, I guess. :)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

The Gathering Dark review

The Gathering Dark
Leigh Bardugo
June 7th 2012

The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.

Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom’s magical elite—the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?

The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.

But what of Mal, Alina’s childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can’t she ever quite forget him?

Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance.

The Gathering Dark was an interesting fantasy that I really enjoyed after pushing through the first hundred or so pages. Though there were some aspects that annoyed me a little bit, overall it was a pretty good book that I think is pretty accessible as a fantasy to both those that are big fans of the genre and those that don't really care much for it.

Alina was, for quite a bit of the book, one of the reasons that I found it fairly difficult to get into. I didn't dislike her, it's just that for a time she really didn't capture my attention as a heroine. It seemed that for a while, even though she has this awesome power and there's all these things happening, all she could really do was whine about it. She was snarky in places, and this was good in a way, but she was more bark than bite for a lot of it. She would complain about something and then do nothing to try and make life easier for herself, you know? But by the last 200 pages, say, I warmed up to her and she became more interesting and likeable. But I know that a lot of people liked her a lot, so this might just have been me. I did like her by the end, though!

I really liked Mal as a character and a love interest, and he was really lovely, but I think that the Darkling was way more complex and interesting as a character. I would really like to see more of his story from before the series, too, because he sounds like he has a really interesting past. I was definitely more fascinated by him that I was by Mal, even if he was a bit, like, crazy and stuff. I'm very interesting to see which way the series is going to go.

I think that one of the things that disappointed me most about this book is the integration of Tsarist Russian culture into it, because Ravka is meant to be based on Russia. I'll be honest, I didn't see a whole lot of that though the book, and in the next two books I'd really like to see more world development. The setting didn't feel like a character like it usually does in fantasy books, it didn't feel as important as it should, and the world building was kind of a let down for me. But I did really like the idea of the Shadow Fold and it's history and how it came about. Also, the Grisha were pretty cool and I enjoyed learning about them as a group of people and as a culture, though, again, I'd really like to see more about their history.

The plot was really good too, though I felt there were some parts where it dragged a little in the first 200 or so pages, but no where where it dragged so much I just couldn't be bothered. After about the 250 mark, though, the plot got really interesting and I struggled to put it down. The love triangle was really interesting in this, and I'm interested to see how the relationships play out over the rest of the series, and what will happen.

The Gathering Dark is a really good book that took me a little while to warm up to, but that isn't too heavy a fantasy for those that aren't huge fantasy fans to read. A really enjoyable book, but I really hope to see more world development and background in the series. 

Monday 28 May 2012

Looks, Books and Adolescent Self-Loathing

Before I say anything, you should probably read the post Laura from SisterSpooky posted a couple of days ago about book covers and the models they use and how they kind of misrepresent normal people. It's really good, and it's what got me thinking about this kind of thing.

So, I was reading Laura's post, and it got me thinking about how girls are represented in a lot of aspects in YA, from cover image to how they're actually presented as characters in the story, and I realised that I've noticed quite a lot about how image and appearance plays a big role in all of those things. I mean, I guess it's kind of obvious that they would be, but it's less about what they actually look like and more about how they view themselves.

In a lot of books that I read, the main character usually has self-image issues. I get it, everyone has some kind of self-image issue, right? Or at least most people do, anyway, and I don't have a problem with that. I love flawed characters and I greatly admire characters who recognise those flaws in themselves and actually have the will to try and change them or at least accept them, something as a fifteen year old girl myself I struggle immensely to do. 

But a lot of main characters have issues way beyond that that have come about purely because of their attitude to their appearance. They have some serious self-loathing going on. Which, again, isn't really the issue in itself because a lot of people have that going on themselves (me included), but it's more about how it's treated, and where this has all come from.

It's like (and again, I guess I'm kind of generalising) these characters think that because in their eyes they're not attractive then they must have no redeeming qualities whatsoever, and is that what we want to be telling people? Young girls, especially? I find that the situation is sometimes this: there'll be a teen girl (the main character) who doesn't really like herself much, a hot guy will come along, they fall in love an it'll all be fine. That if you keep on hating yourself, some super sexy guy will come along and fix all your self confidence problems for you! Yay!

Or not yay, rather. It feels like their sometimes giving out the wrong message about how you should view yourself. Should we really be constantly feeding this idea about deeply inset insecurity, and how it attracts people? Because really doesn't it attract the wrong kind of people, the kind of people that think you must be easy to manipulate and control because of how insecure you are. You don't need someone to make you feel whole, and sometimes it feels like that's the idea these books are giving out. That you can't be okay by yourself. I'm going to pull out the most obvious example here, and you can roll your eyes, but Bella, anyone? As soon as Edward dashes off she thinks she's less than herself, and she thinks she can't be whole if she hasn't got Edward, and in three months she never even tries to get over that. She isolates herself, and she doesn't accept people's help, and it just makes me angry! It really annoys me when books give fantastical idealisms about unhealthy relationships because everything's okay if it's fictional! And it is, but that doesn't stop it from irritating me. I'm not trying to say that I want this to stop happening completely, because a) it never will, and b) people like that kind of thing! I'm not trying to make people feel bad about having fantasies about hot guys. It's just that sometimes there's more to read into it than that.

Why can't we have more characters that actually like themselves? Are we that insecure as a readership that we only want to read more book about girls who don't like themselves because it's so much easier to loathe people who actually do. I just want to see more people who are happy as themselves first. Relationships are supposed to better people, but they're not meant to make a person whole. In my opinion, a person is like a house, and a relationship should be like a conservatory or a nice extension, rather than the roof or the foundations.

I would like to see people with better self-image, because I don't think I'm pretty, but I know that I'm more than just a face, and that I have other redeeming qualities about myself, and I don't need to think that I'm attractive to think that people will like me, or that I'm a worthy person. And whether it be that a character is attractive and knows that they're attractive, or whether they're a nice person and they know that, and they like themselves for who they are, rather than who they are when they're with him.

Okay, so this kind of devolved into my usual rant about relationships, and it kind of went off topic a bit, but it was kind of more for me to get my feelings out about this, and I hope that I've at least been able to accomplish that.

*sidenote: I know that there are a lot of books already that don't do this, before you shout at me. I just wanted to rant about those that do. So, yeah.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Letterbox Love #4

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

For review:
Blackwood by Gwenda  Bond (Don't know that much about this one, but it looks cool! Thank you Strange Chemistry!)
Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass (I'm SO looking forward to this! Thank you Bloomsbury!)

Friday 25 May 2012

Knife review

R J Anderson
January 8th 2009
Orchard Books

Deep inside the great Oak lies a dying faery realm, bursting with secrets instead of magic. Long ago the faeries mysteriously lost their magic. Robbed of their powers, they have become selfish and dull-witted. Now their numbers are dwindling and their very survival is at stake.

Only one young faery — Knife — is determined to find out where her people's magic has gone and try to get it back. Unlike her sisters, Knife is fierce and independent. She's not afraid of anything—not the vicious crows, the strict Faery Queen, or the fascinating humans living nearby. But when Knife disobeys the Faery Queen and befriends a human named Paul, her quest becomes more dangerous than she realizes. Can Knife trust Paul to help, or has she brought the faeries even closer to the brink of destruction?

Knife was a really good book. I was a little iffy about reading it, because I've heard it's kind of on the border of MG/YA (I don't know why that would put me off, I have nothing against middle grade), but it was actually really cool, and definitely appropriate for both reading ages. So, y'know, don't let that put you off.

Knife is, in it's essence, a charming kind of book. It's written in third person, so it kind of feels like the fairy books that I read when I was younger, and gave it a more traditional faery-ish vibe overall. The faeries aren't your regular YA faeries, either, which I think is something that really added to it's appeal for me. These are more the faeries I grew up with, rather than the ones I've learned to like now that I'm a bit older. (ie, Wicked Lovely, The Iron King, ect...) But despite the fact that they're kind of more on the small side, and it definitely wasn't as debauched as I'm used to (not that faery books are usually dirty or anything, but them faeries do have a certain reputation for seductions), there still was that overhanging kind of darkness about what had truly happened during the Sundering, and if everything in the Oak was all that it seemed.

I also loved the fact that it was told from the faeries perspective, rather that the humans, and I would like, to see that in YA faery books more often, too. It'd be interesting to see how being that kind of a faery would jade a person, and what it would take to bring them out of that. And I'm going off on a tangent... But yeah, it was really awesome that the faeries weren't the bad guys in this instance, and I didn't have to keep up with all that court business. I liked getting to learn all about the faeries again, and their traditions, and their whole thing about bargains and whatnot.

I loved Knife as a character, too! She may have been tiny, but she was awesome and strong, and I loved that she was the Queen's Hunter. She is one faery you wouldn't want to mess with if you were a hungry crow, and I loved that fierceness and the fact that she wasn't scared to fight, as well as the emotional story arc she was going through, and it was really interesting to see her develop as a character from someone relatively cold, I guess, but still nice to people and stuff, to someone just better. She retained all of her awesome character traits, but also learnt a few things about love and trust and friendship.

And on the note of friendship, I loved Paul too! I have such respect for him, and the fact that he stuck with Knife through everything. He also had some stuff going on with him, too, though, and I think that their friendship was equally important to both of them, as not only did it help Knife to learn that even if she was a faery, she could still actually make friends, it helped Paul to get through some of his feelings about what he went through, and there was just a really great bit around the middle of the book that just was awesome. I mean it was awesome in itself. In fact, it was pretty sucky, but what it showed of their friendship and how much they cared for each other was awesome. Also, I loved the fact that friendship came first, for both of them, and that there wasn't a romantic aspect until much later on in the book.

Knife is a really, really great faery book that I think would be really good for the people that *think* they don't like faeries because they're not reading about the right kind. Besides, it's just a really cool book that has a plot that keeps you reading (as one would hope, I guess) and characters that you'll really just adore.

Monday 21 May 2012

Unravelling review

Elizabeth Norris
June 7th 2012

24 meets the X Files in the biggest teen blockbuster of the summer…


Leaving the beach, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit head on by a pickup truck.

And killed.

Then Ben Michaels, resident stoner, is leaning over her. And even though it isn’t possible, she knows Ben somehow brought her back to life…

Meanwhile, Janelle’s father, a special agent for the FBI, starts working on a case that seems strangely connected to Ben. Digging in his files, Janelle finds a mysterious device – one that seems to be counting down to something that will happen in 23 days and 10 hours time.

That something? It might just be the end of the world. And if Janelle wants to stop it, she’s going to need to uncover Ben’s secrets – and keep from falling in love with him in the process…

As is said in the blurb, Unravelling certain felt like I was reading a big budget action blockbuster. It was really, really fast-paced and I enjoyed the action and the convoluted plot, but I kind of felt an emotional disconnect from it.

Really, the best thing about this book is its plot. It's definitely plot driven, and it really keeps you on your toes.There were so many twists and turns that I couldn't keep out, and I loved that it was so interesting. I also loved the fact that it had a kind of sci-fi twist, and that instead of it being a post-apocolyptic novel, it was kind of a pre-apocolyptic novel? Which again kind of fitted in with the whole action thing it had going on. I really enjoyed learning about Ben and his friends, and all the FBI stuff was really cool too, and I liked seeing how it all came together. I really couldn't predict a lot of the twists.

I really liked Janelle, too. She was a really strong character and she went through a hell of a lot in the twenty or so days we see of her life. I actually liked her a lot more than I thought I would, because I thought she was going to be pretty bland, but she was actually pretty cool. I liked getting to see bits about her life before the countdown and stuff, too, though I did feel like they were placed at fairly random places and perhaps slowed the story down a little.

The romance is fairly standard, but I liked the fact that it wasn't instant like I could've been. It was good to get to see the developing relationship between Ben and Janelle, though I did think it was a little strange that he had been kind of obsessed with her since he first saw her. I mean, it was explained, but still, if I was Janelle I would've been a little freaked out. All the same, though, Ben was really nice. And what he could do was really freaking cool.

I didn't really like the fact, though, that most of the chapters were really short, because I know that it was meant to create tension and action and stuff, but for me a lot of the time the chapter breaks seemed unnecessary, and it prevented me from making a proper emotional connection with the story. Sure, I liked the action, but I didn't really feel anything, even during the pretty emotional parts (of which there are quite a few). That was my main issue with the book, though. For the most part it was really entertaining.

My favourite part was probably actually the ending. I would've liked to have seen a bit more of the aftermath, maybe, but it wasn't a really typical ending. I mean, I guess it kind of was, but at the same time it's not something you see happen in a YA book very often, and I just really hope that it's a stand alone, because a second book would kill that ending.

Unravelling is a fast-paced, action filled book, with a great main character but kind of lacked the emotional connection I wanted. 

Sunday 20 May 2012

Letterbox Love #3

Letterbox Love is the UK's version of IMM, hosted by the lovely Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

Sorry for the picture very attractively placed on top of all my schoolwork and cabling.

For review:
Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley. (I intend on starting this today. People tell me it's amazing!)
Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (I've always loved the sound of this book! Can't wait to finally read it. Thank you Hachette for these two!)
The Spooks Blood by Jospeh Delaney (not pictured. I haven't read any of this series, so if anyone wants it preferably in the UK, just say :) Thank you Random House!)
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (from Netgalley. Started this yesterday, and even though it's killing my eyes, I'm really enjoying it!)

What did you get this week? :)

Thursday 17 May 2012

Emma Hearts LA review

Emma Hearts LA
Keris Stainton
June 7th 2012
Orchard Books

Emma's not sure that LA's for her, but when she accompanies her sister Jane to an audition, a chance meeting with a teen TV star starts to change her new sunshine lifestyle for the better... But what about Oscar, so far her only friend in LA, who's turning out NOT to be the idiot she thought he was?

Soon Emma begins to find herself torn between two boys and reconsidering her entire future.

Maybe LA's not that bad after all.

I love Keris Stainton's books. They're just really good, British (despite the fact that they're sometimes set in America) contemp YA, that don't deal with particularly heavy issues, but are just adorable. They're light and quick to read, and always leave me feeling satisfied.

Emma isn't a completely new character to us, as we saw quite a lot of her in Jessie Hearts NYC, and I really liked getting to see things from her perspective. She's just moved to LA with her mother after her parents have undergone a divorce, and she's still trying to come to terms with her dad at the same time as adjusting to a whole new country, and I have to say I certainly didn't envy her. But at the same time, she didn't always complain about it and moan about it, and she didn't try and drag down the mood of her mum and sister who were both pretty excited about the move as it meant better job prospects for both of them. I really admired her maturity in the situation, because she could've just been really bitchy and annoying about it like a lot of teens would be if they were about to get uprooted from their lives. Of course, there was a bit of sarcasm and stuff about it, but who could blame her! I know I would be way worse.

And Oscar! I love you! Honestly, if you ever think you can't find a nerdy boy attractive in fiction just read this and you will change your mind. He's basically the most adorable thing ever and I don't think anyone could not like him. He used to be friends with Emma, because he used to live near her and their parents used to be friends, and I liked the fact that all the fuss wasn't all over Shiny New Boy, and  that Old Geeky Friend got a lot of the limelight. He was just so lovely. I want to cuddle him. Also, I love the fact that he owned his nerdiness! I don't like it when people come across as being ashamed of, y'know, liking things, so whenever I see geeky people in books and they revel in their geekiness, I just kind of love it.

Alex was cool too, and I like the fact that even though he was a pretty big star and stuff, he wasn't totally arrogant and all about how 'hot' he is. He genuinely seemed like a nice person, and he seemed to genuinely like Emma a lot, which I thought was sweet. I was glad that anything that happened between them wasn't just some publicity ploy for him or anything, which was good because a lot of times in books like this I kind of just expect the famous guy to just be a complete douche. He was nothing compared to Oscar, though, and there was one scene involving the both of them that kind of made my opinion of him go down a little, but I don't think he was a bad guy.

I kind of fell in love with LA while reading this book, too. Now, I've never been further overseas than Tenerife (and I kind of hated it), but the way that LA was described, even all of the places that I've heard of and are famous and have never really wanted to go seemed amazing. I guess it just goes to show that when you really love a place, it just translates. It's just how Keris's passion for New York in Jessie Hearts NYC made me desperately want to go. I don't think I'll get to go to America any time soon (like, ever) but if I ever do, I'll make sure that NYC and LA are some of the places I go. (Even though I know that they're already, like, big tourist destinations, these books made me want to go there EVEN MORE.)

I also really liked Emma's mum, and especially her sister Bex. I was kind of fully prepared to not like her because she really wanted to be a teen star and stuff, but she was actually really cool, and though she did get a bit carried away with the whole 'LA lifestyle' thing, she also worked really hard to get what she wanted, and was really enthusiastic about it too. I was also really glad that the whole dad thing was important to the book too, and that it wasn't just about the boys, that it was about coming to terms with a new life and with her parents divorce, and that she shouldn't just blame her dad. So that was cool.

Emma Hearts LA is a fun, adorable, quick read that'll be the perfect book for the beach, or, y'know, just summer in general. It's not beach specific (I should know, I hate beaches). It's the perfect book for any time, any where! ;)

Tuesday 15 May 2012

Heart-Shaped Bruise review

Heart-Shaped Bruise
Tanya Byrne
10th May 2012

They say I'm evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don't know. You don't know who I used to be. 

Who I could have been.

Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time. 

Heart-Shaped Bruise is a compulsive and moving novel about infamy, identity and how far a person might go to seek revenge.

Okay, I have no idea how I'm going to express my feelings for this book well, but I'll give it a go. Heart-Shaped Bruise is kind of a weird one for me because I feel kind of conflicted about it. Like, I know that I loved it, and I know that it was kind an amazing, but I can definitely see that it's not going to be to everyone's taste. The closest parallel I can draw to it is Entangled, so if you liked that (and I loved it) then you'll probably like this too. I'm most conflicted about Emily, because I'm still not sure whether I liked her or not, but I was completely engaged in her story regardless.

I thought it was really interesting that this story was told from the antagonists point of view, which I know kind of makes her, well, not the antagonist, but in a way she is because no one is more antagonist to Emily, I think, than herself. It was Emily's ideal of revenge and this built up resentment towards Juliet that was the bad guy, and I feel like there were two very different sides to Emily herself - one being this resentful person, and the other being who she used to be - and she has a very distinct idea of who they both are, even if she thinks that they're still two very separate people. I think that it was evident the further through the book you got that she still was the Emily she used to be, in a way, in that she wasn't evil. She's messed up, I'll grant you that, but she isn't evil.

Which is why my feelings about her are still so confused! I liked her a lot of the time, I genuinely did, because she wasn't always this person caught up on revenge. There were times, especially when she was looking back at her times with Sid, that she just wasn't hell-bent on causing Juliet's demise, and she was just normal and likeable. It's obvious that she's a really unstable person, and her narration isn't completely to be trusted, but I really think that it was the best way of telling this story. Her narrative is really gripping and I was kind of morbidly fascinated in hearing her side of the story. And about ten pages before the big realisation I just kind of figured what she did and I kind of wanted to stop reading. I don't know why, I just didn't want it to be confirmed, I guess, but it still shocked me when I read it. It really screwed up my perception, having the story told in this way, because there were a lot of times where I forgot that she was in there for a reason, and that she'd done something terrible. 

The story is told as kind of a journal that Emily keeps during her time at Archway Young Offender's Institution, and I think the fact that it was told like this, and that Emily being the unreliable narrator that she was only helped in telling the story, because it allowed you to see everything as it was to her. And I really like reading books where the main character probably isn't to be trusted, and where she isn't really all that likeable, but you still kind of like her anyway, and I like reading books that kind of fuck with my morals (like Stolen, and Forbidden). I love reading books that make me feel for someone that I know I would loathe if I saw their stories in the news, and that make me really, really think. And I still feel a little bit like I'm recovering emotionally from this book, because Emily is kind of stripped down to just being Emily again after being someone else for so long, and when you think about how she was labelled as a monster and as evil, and read her story and you feel kind of sorry for her because she wasn't always like this. And you kind of want to hate Juliet a little bit too, because she did the right thing, and took the right way of starting to recover from your life being destroyed where Emily went wrong. And it makes you think was it always in her? Was she always that way? Because her did was a gangster, therefore she must be following in his footsteps, right? I still don't know.

I think that this is a way more interesting story that what the idea started out being, as Tanya said that originally it was Juliet's story and it was told from Juliet's point of view, and I just don't think that would've been as good. I do really think, though, that the fact that she knew everything that had happened to Juliet from Juliet's perspective already really helped with giving the story more texture that it already had, and gave it more emotional depth. I really wanted to dislike Juliet, but I really couldn't and I don't think that would've been the case if there wasn't a really clear idea of what she'd been through and how she'd felt about it in the author's head. Or I could just be completely overthinking the whole thing, and Tanya's just really freaking good at writing characters. 

I really loved Sid too, and he totally needs his whole paragraph and not just because he was a swoon worthy boy. He was a million things other than that, and I feel terrible that he got caught up in everything that happened. If he hadn't have sat there in that first English lesson, hadn't spoken to them, things might've ended up differently. But there's always that possibility in stories like this, and if he hadn't then there wouldn't have been much of a story.

Tanya's writing was also amazing. Like, this is another one of those books that makes me feel like I should just never write anything again because I know I'll never be able to write a book with words and sentences and the emotional depth like this. It's really kind of beautiful, and I must just stop reading amazing books because I've read to many of them lately and my brain can't handle it. I need to read something that isn't going to leave me feeling a little bit broken after I turn the final page (though I love it really.)

Heart-Shaped Bruise was a pretty incredible debut, and I think the emotional impact it had on me left a heart-shaped bruise (okay, so that pun didn't go as well as intended...). I have no idea if this even made that much sense, but as long as the overall message got across, I don't really mind. 

Sunday 13 May 2012

Letterbox Love #2

Letterbox Love is the UK equivalent to In My Mailbox hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

The Pledge by Kimberly Derting 
Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne (both signed)

Unrest by Michelle Harrison (the awesome Bella (Cheezyfeet Books) lent me this today! I'll explain everything in a minute)

For Review:
Emma <3 LA by Keris Stainton (Already read and loved it. I love Keris and her books and couldn't resist starting as soon as I got it! Thank you Hachette!)

So, yesterday, I went to the second Creative Voices event at Foyles where Tanya Byrne, Kimberly Derting, Cat Clarke and James Dawson were talking about their publication journeys and reading parts from their books and then signing them. Loads of lovely bloggers came along too, namely (and I'm sorry if I leave anyone out) Bella, Nina, Kirsty, Sarah, Leanne (though there were more there,) and it was great to see everyone! I got all of my Body Finder books signed as well as Cat Clarke's books, and picked up HSB there too, because it sounds exactly like my kind of thing and Tanya is lovely. It was awesome getting  to chat with everyone and stuff, and I still get majorly happy when I'm getting a book signed and I say my name and they're like 'Cicely from Twitter' because I kind of don't believe that they actually, y'know, remember me and stuff. I flail in my mind every time that happens. So yeah. Thank you Foyles (mainly Neil from Foyles) for having the event and everything! It was fun :)

Wednesday 9 May 2012

Revolution review

Jennifer Donnelly
November 2010

BROOKLYN: Andi Alpers is on the edge. She’s angry at her father for leaving, angry at her mother for not being able to cope, and heartbroken by the loss of her younger brother, Truman. Rage and grief are destroying her. And she’s about to be expelled from Brooklyn Heights’ most prestigious private school when her father intervenes. Now Andi must accompany him to Paris for winter break.

PARIS: Alexandrine Paradis lived over two centuries ago. She dreamed of making her mark on the Paris stage, but a fateful encounter with a doomed prince of France cast her in a tragic role she didn’t want—and couldn’t escape.

Two girls, two centuries apart. One never knowing the other. But when Andi finds Alexandrine’s diary, she recognizes something in her words and is moved to the point of obsession. There’s comfort and distraction for Andi in the journal’s antique pages—until, on a midnight journey through the catacombs of Paris, Alexandrine’s words transcend paper and time, and the past becomes suddenly, terrifyingly present.

Okay, guys, I adored this book. So I cannot guarantee that this won't just be a whole load of feeeeelings, but still. Stick with me okay. Because this book is seriously brilliant. I can't name a thing I didn't love about it by the end. Even the historical bits, because as much I love historical, I'm also a little hesitant towards books that aren't historical but have diary entries in them, because I usually find that they drag a bit on the story, but when the two are so well intertwined, like they were here, it's just kind of magical.

I was a little bit confused at the beginning of the book, because we're thrown straight into Andi's life and it took me a while to adjust to her voice, because it is fairly distinct, and to her attitude to everything (negative, but who can blame her?) But after a few chapters I really got into it and I was loving the contemp vibe. Which is why I think it took me a while to get fully into Alexandrine's life. At first, I was less into the diary entries than I was Andi's parts, but when  we fully get into the revolution and hearing about Louis-Charles and what Alexandrine did I almost more invested in her stories than Andi's.

Both Andi and Alexandrine were great characters, even if we really only got to know one purely through diary entries. I loved Andi's voice and I loved getting to know her, even if she was pretty screwed up. I thought it was really fascinating getting to see life from her perspective, and even though she was pretty negative, I didn't really mind. I was just kind of taken aback by how stunning Jennifer's writing was and how she pretty much wrote anything and made it pretty. There were strong musical themes throughout and I know it sounds cheesy, but her writing was like music. It felt rhythmical when I read it and I just never want to write anything again because I know I'll never be able to write as well as she can.

And although we didn't get to see much of him, I loved Virgil too. He was a really cool guy, and I liked getting to see him and Andi starting to get together, because you could tell straight away that he was going to be instrumental to Andi's getting less bad. Though I loved even more that the diary was the main part of her healing process, because a lot of the time it's really just the love interest and family that help to fix things when the main character is going through kind of a difficult time. I liked that this time it was history, and a girl from the past that had been through surprisingly similar things (although admittedly Alexandrine's story did involve a lot more, you know, massacres and rebellion and death than Andi's).

Also, can we just speak about the last 100 pages? Because that completely took me by surprise. I really wasn't expecting it to take that kind of a turn (though it's awesome and you have nothing to worry about.) That's the part of this book that kind of threw me off though. Before, I at least had an idea of how to define it, but after finishing it I really just can't. But I loved everything that happened it the last 1/5 of the book and I think that it was my favourite part, in all honesty. I would've liked a little explanation for it, but at the same time I like the mystery of whether it actually happened or not.

Revolution is an absolutely stunning book, and I encourage you greatly to read it, even if it doesn't seem like your thing, because it WILL be your thing. I am telling you that. Just push forward with it no matter what you think and I bet you'll love it. Hopefully. I want you to love it! It's amazing!

Monday 7 May 2012

Switched review

Amanda Hocking
January 5th 2012
Tor (Macmillan)

When Wendy Everly was six-years-old, her mother was convinced she was a monster and tried to kill her. It isn't until eleven years later that Wendy finds out her mother might've been telling the truth.With the help of Finn Holmes, Wendy finds herself in a world she never knew existed - and it's one she's not sure if she wants to be a part of.

I've put off writing this review for a while now, because I really just don't know what to say about it. I'll be honest, I didn't really like it. I didn't hate it or anything, it just didn't hook me. I was just kind of bored through it. And I really hate saying that about books, but there just wasn't anything stand-out about it for me.

Wendy was okay, I guess, but there was nothing about her character that made me think 'I LOVE YOU' or that made me feel really bad about her circumstances. I could relate to her not wanting to be a princess and not wanting to dress up and whatever, but I don't know. She just kind of felt like your bog standard YA paranormal heroine. She was snarky in places, and I liked that (I mean, I always like snark), but I didn't feel like there was anything that stood out (yes, this phrase is probably going to make a few appearances throughout this review.)

I really liked the premise of it, actually, and I thought the prologue was really gripping. I was really interested to see what happened to Wendy and why her mother wanted to kill her and such, and the emotional impact that would've had on her and her family. I also wanted to see more about her family relationships, and her and her brother, but I felt like that wasn't developed much at all. Maybe that happens in the second book? But I felt like the main part of the first, say, 100 pages of the book was the insta-love with Finn. Which irritated me to no end as it always does. At first I was like 'Yay! She's not going to fall in love with him straight away', because, 'y'know' he had kind of just been staring creepily at her the whole time, but of course he's really hot, so there's that whole irrevocable draw thing that seems to happen all the time, and even when he's being a dick to her, she's still likes him. And then on his second or third visit in through her bedroom window, she thinks she's officially in love with him. I guess it help that the romance kind of stopped for a while because we were learning about the Trylle, but still! Come on girl! You were so sensible for a while! (Sorry, I have to vent about these things.)

I liked the Trylle to, actually, though I feel like she kind of did to Trolls what Meyer did to Vampires, and I probably would've preferred it more if they weren't all super-hot/beautiful. I did like how obsessed they were with money though, and how cold they were, and how they switched their young with the children of rich people so they'd get all the money in their trust funds. And I much preferred Rhys (though he wasn't a trolle) and Tove and Willa to the two main characters. I didn't like how Wendy automatically assumed Willa was a bitch because she was actually really cool, and I think Tove is really interesting and I'd like to see more of him, but I still don't know if I want to read the second book yet. I did kind of feel when reading it that it was like she'd just though which paranormal creature hasn't been done before, and then just picked trolls because it was new and different. But I'd rather see a new take on an old and well used creature than the beautification and standardisation of a new one. I like it when things like trolls and fairies and vamps are bad guys and I can't wait to see that trend start again in YA.

I really hate being negative about books (as I'm sure you've gathered from my swathes of generally positive reviews), but I just didn't feel like there was anything special about this. It wasn't a bad book, but it just felt like every other typical paranormal I've read and everyone made it out like it was something special when I just felt like it wasn't. But if paranormal is your kind of thing, then be sure to pick it up! It just wasn't my cup of tea.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Letterbox Love #1

Letterbox Love is the UK bloggers alternative to IMM hosted by Lynsey at Narratively Speaking :)

So, this is everything I've got in the past 3 weeks. Not a lot, I know (my house has been like a black hole for post these past few weeks), but at least it means I'm not dying under the weight of my TBR so much any more!

For review:
Dying to Know You by Aiden Chambers (apparantly this dude writes awesome YA, and I really liked the sound (and the cover) of this book. Thanks you Random House!)
We'll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han (EEEP! Thank you Puffin/Razorbill!)
Insurgent by Veronica Roth (not pictured, but completely and totally amazeballs. Thank you Harpercollins!)

Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead ( I still haven't read Spirit Bound yet, but people have warned me that the cliff hanger is pretty bad and that I should have LS on stand by for when I finish it)
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (I thought I should finally get around to reading one of his adult books)
Battle Royale by Koushun Takami (watched and loved the film, but the book is kind of a beast.  Summer reading, methinks!)

Friday 4 May 2012

Insurgent review

Veronica Roth
May 1st 2012
HarperCollins Children's Books

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

*Bits from Divergent will most definitely be spoiled, so DO NOT READ IF YOU HAVEN'T READ DIVERGENT. And if you haven't, rectify that IMMEDIATELY.*

Well. Wow. Just wow. I never really thought that it was possible for Insurgent to be able to live up to Divergent, and though I can't really properly compare the two because I didn't reread Divergent, I think it impressed me just as much as Divergent did. And, you'll be glad to know, it didn't suffer from second book syndrome at all (in my opinion), though it was setting up a lot of what's going to happen in the third book. It still managed to carry it's own though, which was good because it's annoying when a second book just doesn't really do anything. Which I guess is why I try and avoid trilogies quite  a lot these days because they're not all up to Divergent's standards. I guess it's also why I don't really read that many dystopia's apart from the main one's really. Because I'm so used to them being this good, or maybe I'm just not willing to let other series's into my life. Or maybe I just don't like dystopia that much unless it's done this well!

I loved the direction that the story was taken to, and the fact that it's just been drawn out into a much bigger scale than the first one. And I really, really cannot believe that I'm going to have to wait for a whole YEAR until book three comes out, because I'm telling you now that was a pretty evil ending, but I'm hoping book 3 will be like this one in that it starts pretty much exactly where the last one ended. Another thing I loved was getting to see more about each of the factions we didn't really get to see much of before, like Amity and Candor. And I still think that I would be in Amity if I had to pick a faction. Or maybe Erudite. I also really liked the fact there wasn't really anyone definitively in the right or wrong. Nothing is black and white even if Tris sees it as being so, and it was really interesting to see how all the different factions took what was happening to them - and how they retaliated to that. Also, there was a lot of the factionless in this book, and it was great to see more about them too. I loved the twist at the end!

One of the things I'm looking forward to most in book three is learning more about the world outside of Chicago. We get a vague idea right at the end of the book, and the feeling that it's going to be really important in book 3. I seriously cannot wait to see what's she's going to do with the set up and how it's going to be woven into the story, or even who or what the main antagonist is going to be in the third book, and how it's going to work with what's already happened. I honestly cannot speculate at this point because I'm pretty sure all of my ideas are going to be wrong.

Tris was also really interesting in this book, and we got to see a lot more of her, like, personality-wise. I guess that doesn't really make sense, but what I mean is that she learns a lot more about herself in this book, and what she's really like as a person, and she's still one of my favourite characters in YA, I think. I like the person that she's becoming as much I liked the person she was in the first book, and her character development is really great. I love that she's so dedicated to what she wants to do, even if it means that she's betraying the one's who love and trust her most. I love that her loyalties lied more to her dead parents than her boyfriend, as lovely as Four is. Her emotional turmoil in this book was also really great, because I was worried that she was just going to forget about killing Will, but she didn't and her guilt was so real and palpable. I guess I was just worried about that because Will's death affected me way more than her parents, probably because it was Tris who killed him. Her inner reflection on that was brilliant, and even though she cried a lot, it wasn't just for nothing. She was under serious pressure. It also made me respect Christina a whole lot more, and I liked Christina a lot anyway. 

Four was really great in this book, too. I can't really imaging Four not being great. But I also loved the fact that not everything was perfectly smooth between them, because you know me and sappy couples. I just need to have a bucket on me. Also, I think for the purpose of the story and helping Tris fully grow into herself as a person, there needs to some kind of friction between them. Besides, it really adding in moving the story along, and made me want to read the book even quicker to find out what was going to happen not just overall in the story, but between them. Though my main concern was with the main plot, and I didn't really even notice the absence of Four in some places for how intense it was.

Insurgent is an incredible and completely worthy follow up to an amazing debut, and creates a whole new aspect to the story that brings in onto a much bigger scale than the first book. If this is anything to go by, I'm going to need to seriously prepare myself for book 3. Because it is going to be immense.
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