Tuesday 26 February 2013

Geek Girl review

Geek Girl
Holly Smale
28th February 2013
HarperCollins Children's Books

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. 

She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a "jiffy" lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn't quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she's spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend's dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, she begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn't seem to like her any more than the real world did. 

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

Geek Girl is the first book I've read in a while that I've just wanted to sit there and hug after I finished reading it. Even now, just seeing the cover makes me smile. It's possibly one of the most adorable, sweet books that I've ever read, and if I wasn't sure which fictional character I would want to be my best friend, I can now say with complete certainty that it would be Harriet Manners.

Harriet completely made this book for me. She is just hilarious and intelligent and clumsy and lovely and I have learnt so many random facts because of her. Can we make her a real person please because I just want to be her friend and hang out with her all the time. When she got picked up by the modelling agency, I was a bit worried that she was going to change and by the end of the book emerge as some beautiful, sohpisticated, hoity-toity model type and be the best most perfect model in the world and I just couldn't deal with the prospect of that, but *spoiler alert* I was just being overly worried and none of that happened. Not that I'm against beautiful, sophisticated model women, it's just it would've been like Harriet losing her soul and her essence as person, and she's such a lovely, beautiful person already she shouldn't have to change to fit into the modelling world which she finds herself thrown into. I just want to give her a hug. And let me just tell you now, that whole final scene (you'll know what I mean if/when you read it - because you WILL be reading it, right *side eyes you*) was just the perfect ending to this book, and I would like to hibernate until the release of the sequel.

It's true that Harriet is wonderful, but the side characters in this book are also, in a word, hilarious. There's Harriet's dad, who's always telling bad jokes, but is also there for his daughter, and her step mum Annabel who I would personally like to thank for not being a stereotypically awful step mother. Oh, and as a side note: Parents! Parents in the book! Parents playing an important role and having a strong, nice, healthy relationship with their children! There's Toby, the slightly creepy, excessively geeky stalker who  has a bit of thing for Harriet (he sometimes hides in her bushes), but after hearing Holly talk about him I've decided it's less of a creepy pervy thing and more of an innocent stalking? This isn't sounding good. He doesn't do it with bad intentions. I think he just sees Harriet as like him and doesn't really know how to be normal about it. He's a bit creepy, but he's not a bad guy.  And Natalie! Harriet's best friend who's dream it has always been to be a model. Harriet and Natalie have a bit of trouble with their friendship - feelings are hurt, hands are raised (you'll get it when you read it!) - but I loved that they worked through it and that Natalie didn't turn her back on Harriett completely. And finally (yes, we're nearly at the end of the paragraph), there's Lion Boy - or Nick, if you like. The romance was not one of the most important parts of the book, and the scenes with Nick were fairly infrequent, but I liked this. The focus of the book if Harriett, but the romance didn't hurt. But seriously, that freaking ending! You can't just end it RIGHT THERE AND LEAVE US HANGING LIKE THAT HOLLY. COME ON.

It's true that the story is a fairytale (The Ugly Duckling, I believe) and it is kind of unrealistic, but even thought some of the stuff about Harriett's journey as a model felt unrealistic (not impossible, I know that kind of stuff happens to people), you could tell that Holly had had experienced the modelling world and hadn't just 'researched' by watching 18 cycles of America's Next Top Model (which is what I probably would've done). I also really liked the international travel (seriously, Russia. I didn't think it was possible, but after reading that depscription of the Red Square, I now want to go. Though I've just started studying the Russian Revolution so the Bolshevik's might change my mind back.) and I am very much looking forward to there being more in the next two books. I have heard tell that Japan may be one of Harriett's future destinations. This pleases me.

If you haven't got the message yet, I loved this book. Actually, I think loved might not be the right word for I how feel about it... I adored this book. If you are British (or have a British sense of humour), and you liked The Look by Sophia Bennett and you like books about modelling or about lovely geek girls, or are just alive and have soul then I suggest you go out to the bookshop and buy this book and tell everyone else about it.

Saturday 23 February 2013

Letterbox Love #26

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

For review:
Girl of Nightmares by Kendare Blake (Excuse me while I sit here and flail and die. Anna was one of my favourites last year, so very much looking forward to the sequel!)
Dead Jealous by Sharon Jones (Not heard much about this, but I like a good mystery/thriller. Thanks to Hachette for both of these!)

Touch of Power by Maria V Snyder (Maria V Snyder. What else do I really need to say?)
Geek Girl by Holly Smale (I have a proof of this, but it's such a cute book and I loved it so much I thought I should buy it as well.)
Soulless by Gail Carriger (Been wanting to read these books for ages, but was also too afraid too because they're 'adult'. Finally got over it and bought the first one!)
Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger 
From What I Remember by Stacy Kramer and Valerie Thomas (I kept on seeing people go on about how much they liked this book, so I thought I might as well!) 

I am officially going on a book buying ban until the Lauren Oliver event at Waterstone's Piccadilly on March 19th. (Yes I have linked it there so check it out and get tickets if there are any left because I will be there and it is going to be great.) 

Thursday 21 February 2013

The Future (or Help I'm Kind of Freaking Out Over Here)

Sorry, I know that I haven't posted for nearly a week and that now when I'm actually posting something it isn't even about books, but every now and again I like to get a bit personal on here. So.

I've been kind of worrying a bit lately about, well, The Future. And not some dystopic future where everything's in the toilet and evil rulers send children to fight to the death in an arena for sport, but my future (I did say this was a bit personal.) Society expects us to be able to know what we want to do from a fairly young age and then by about my age we're expected to know what we want to do and how we're going to do it and whether we want to go to uni or do an apprenticeship or whatever and I just don't. This has never worried me before because I'm a fairly laid back person. I've always been like 'yeah, I'll think about that later, I've got plenty of time' (about pretty much anything, really. I'm a n expert procrastinator.) but now that 'later' is coming up and I'm lost and a bit scared because time doesn't actually stop for people like me, it just carries on and the people like me drown because we're just not very good about planning ahead and being prepared for things like The Future.

I don't really know why it's worrying me so much now. I know that I'm not alone because only about 3 of my friends actually know what they want to with their lives. But even then I'm not sure whether to be jealous of them or not. It's great that they aspire to being things like lawyers and doctors, but after all this time of them building up the idea of who they want to be, what if they never make it? What if they do and they hate it? I know that I'm in a bit of pickle with just having absolutely no clue, but at least then I haven't built up the expectations of a life that I want to have but that doesn't work out for me.

It's not that I've never thought about it. Of course I have, but I want to be a writer and realistically I know that that's not likely to happen. You'd think that after all this I'd be more encouraged about it, but I know now more than ever that it is a business and that I don't really have the talent or the ability or the confidence or the time-management skills to ever a) get something finished or b) have it be good enough. I know that I'm only sixteen and that I have plenty of time, but I just feel that I need to start thinking about more reliable endeavors than always hoping to do this or that and never doing anything to achieve it. (Don't worry, I'm not going to say that writing isn't a real job. I've been around here long enough to know that that's not true.)

Also, just the whole prospect of being an adult and having to rely on myself terrifies me. I'm not very good at the whole being responsible thing. I think I'm going to end up being the female equivalent of a manchild and do nothing with my life and live alone with lots of cats. I don't have a problem with that, it's just that we build up this whole idea of being a success and having a full life and reaching your full potential and we're barraged with ideas of exactly what this is supposed to mean through the TV and books and school, but what does it really mean? Like, I know I'm getting a bit existential-Meaning-of-Life here, but I'm a teenager. It's what we're supposed to do. What if I do end up being a cat lady? I know in my heart that I'd be fine and happy with that, but because everything else tells me that the only way I can be truly happy is if I either have a family or lots of money/a successful career I feel like there'd always be this horrid feeling of dissatisfaction and that I could've been more. I just hate that. I really do. And I know that maybe I will end up being rich or having a family of my own, but I should be allowed to be happy with being a cat lady too, right? (And yes, I don't really like the term Cat Lady, but whatever.) Especially with women I feel like it's prepetuated that you're only really allowed to be happy when you've got a husband/long term partner and pop out babies because that's what Disney films and TV shows have taught me. Cat ladies should be allowed to be happy too!

Okay, enough about cat ladies. I think I might have dragged that on a bit long. But I feel a bit better now. It's always good to just get it all out of my system. I think this is just a bit how most people feel, though. All I really need is adults to tell me that it'll all be fine and that they were like this too but now they're doing great and figuring their life out, so don't worry! See, I just told it to myself. I that rationally it'll probably all work out, but the rational side of my brain hasn't always been winning out lately.

So, um, thanks for reading this ramble. I'll be back to the book reviews soon.

Sunday 17 February 2013

Letterbox Love #25

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


Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce (I have never read a Tamora Pierce book before, but even has told me about how great she is so I thought it was about time I did!)
Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks (Already read this, this was an adorable graphic novel. Really enjoyed it!)
(not pictured) The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (yet another major fantasy series that everyone's read and I haven't)

For review:
Also not pictured, a Harry Styles biography. Yes. I know. I'm really sorry Penguin, I really appreciate being sent it, it's just not my kind of thing. At all.

What did you get in your letterbox this week?

Thursday 14 February 2013

Love Is In The Air (Doo Do Doo, Doo Do Doo)

I may have inappropriately  titled this seeing as I'm not really going to talk that much about Romance, but whatever, it's Valentine's Day, so let's roll with it.

But seeing as it is Valentine's Day, and most people are going to be talking about their favourite couples, or romances or whatever (which is awesome - yay relationships!), but I thought that I'd do something a bit different and make a list of my favourite non-romantic relationships in books. So, in no particular order, my ten favourite sibling, bromances, parent-child, whatever relationships!

1. Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley/Hermione Granger from Harry Potter
Really, how could I make a list about my favourite non-romantic relationships without mentioning the golden trio. And yes, I know that there's been tension between Ron and Hermione since, like, the dawn of time, but I mean Harry's relationship with them both. I love Harry and Ron's friendship because it always has ups and downs, but they always make up in the end. And I also love Harry and Hermione because there isn't a great amount of romantic tension between them, and I think that there needs to be more boy/girl friendships out there because belief it or not you can be friends with someone of the opposite gender and not want to get in their pants (one of my grievances with the age old love triangle).

2. Fred and George Weasley from Harry Potter
Last one from Harry Potter, I promise (though because of the huge cast of the books there are plenty I could choose from *looks at Dean and Seamus*). But really, how could I not include these brilliant, hilarious wonderful twins who love each other so much and who had to be torn apart so tragically. I'm going to stop there, before I start crying.

3. Nick and Alan from The Demon's Lexicon
Now please bare in mind, I've only read the first book so I have no idea what really goes on between them in the next two, but what I have read of it, I've loved. There was a lot of turbulence, and I'm not sure how they feel about each other because of certain things (read the book guys, it's great), but I'm 90% certain that there is some underlying brotherly love, or at least obligation there. I really need to read the second book.

4. Cammie, Bex, Liz and Macey from the Gallagher Girls books
Ugh, I just love these girls so freaking much. They are pretty much the perfect example of the kind of friendships I want to see more of. Especially Bex and Cammie. They've had a lot of difficult times and have fallen out every now and again, but at the end of the day they stick together and would do anything to keep each other safe.

5. Crowley and Aziraphale from Good Omens
You guys. You. Guys. If you have never read Good Omens then I highly recommend that you stop everything that you're doing and read it now because it's the best book ever. And these two. This angel and demon who go about trying to stop the apocalypse together. I just love them.

6. Seraphina and Orma from Seraphina
The only sort of parental relationship on this list, sadly. (I would've put Harry/Dumbledore or something, but enough with the Potter). When I finished Seraphina, it was the main thing I'd taken away from it - apart from the beautiful writing and amazing main character and awesome setting and mythology.

7. Jane and Lizzie from Pride and Prejudice
How could I not include the Bennett sisters?! Especially with the Lizzie Bennett Diaries nearing an end (and if I was going by those standards, then I definitely would've included Lydia with Jane and Lizzie) but as far as the book is concerned, then Lizzie and Jane are my main girls. It's so sweet how they'll stay up talking about boys and how well they know each other and how much they want to see the other one happy. I just love P&P. It's so good.

8. Mel and Cathy from Team Human
I feel like I had to include these two! Their friendship was a lot of what made Team Human for me because it was the central relationship of the book, and I loved the emotional journey they went on. The understanding that they came to at the end was also lovely, because it just shows that incredibly different people can make the best of friends, and that even though you think you might know what's best for them, they might not want the same as you. (Also, Kit and his mum were awesome)

9. Will Grayson and Tiny Cooper from Will Grayson, Will Grayson
(Not gay Will Grayson, but straight Will Grayson - though I guess I could've included both the Will Graysons in this. But that just would've been confusing.) Tiny Cooper and Will Grayson are pretty much two of the last people in the world you'd expect to be friends with each other, but they are, and they're hilarious and wonderful together and I want a friend like Tiny Cooper.

10. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson from the Sherlock Holmes canon
I can't believe I nearly forgot about these two! The ultimate Victorian bromance (and yes, I know everyone secretly thinks that they were gay, but for the sake of this argument we're calling it a bromance). I don't really know what else to say. They're just great. And I love them. And I need Sherlock back on my telly.

There are many, many more, but I have the memory of a goldfish and so can't really remember them that much (whoops), but I hope you've enjoyed this list! I tried to keep it quite gender balanced, too, because I didn't just want to write about bromances. What are some of your favourite fictional non-romantic relationships? 

Tuesday 12 February 2013

Paper Towns review

Paper Towns
John Green
October 16th 2008

Two-time Printz Medalist John Green’s New York Times bestseller, now in paperback!

Quentin Jacobsen has spent a lifetime loving the magnificently adventurous Margo Roth Spiegelman from afar. So when she cracks open a window and climbs back into his life—dressed like a ninja and summoning him for an ingenious campaign of revenge—he follows.

After their all-nighter ends and a new day breaks, Q arrives at school to discover that Margo, always an enigma, has now become a mystery. But Q soon learns that there are clues—and they’re for him. Urged down a disconnected path, the closer he gets, the less Q sees of the girl he thought he knew.

This is going to be less of a review and more of a discussion of sorts because, let's face it, at this point in time you don't really need me to encourage you to read a John Green book unless you've been living under a rock, but also because I'm very much in two minds about it and I would like to know how other people felt about it, as well. On the one hand, I thought that it was very well structured and well realised, and I really agreed with a lot of what it had to say, but on the other hand there were times at which I felt bored and that I thought it was all coming across as being almost shallow and I don't really know why because John Green is one of my favourite authors. We should probably start at the beginning.

I really enjoyed the first part of the book: The Strings. I thought that it was a great way to start off, and it was full of Margo Roth Spiegelman. Margo made this book for me, completely, which was weird because I guess I don't usually go for the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (though maybe it's not that I hate the MPDG themselves, just the way in which they are represented, which this book definitely explored and I really liked that because character depth). I just thought that Margo was great at the start of this book and great at the end and I loved seeing her as the MPDG and seeing her as a human person like she deserved to be seen as. The whole theme of it being bad for a person to 'imagine a person as more than a person' was really important to me just because I think that it's a really important thing for people to know. It can be downright dehumanising to think of person as being, well, more, and it's really bad to put all that pressure on someone and all of those expectations and then to be pissed at them when they turn out to be just a normal person. It's just... UGH. It's not good, okay. That's the point I'm trying to get across.

That being said, I think I loved Margo because she did just seem like more in every way, even toward the end when Quentin learns to get a bit of perspective and has read Leaves of Grass so many freaking times that he may as well be Walt Whitman. Maybe one of my problems with Paper Towns was this, because it felt like even when she wasn't in the book, she still overshadowed everyone else, and they felt almost two-dimensional. But I got this with Looking For Alaska when I think back on it - not because of Alaska, but just because the secondary characters in John Green's books just feel like they are nothing beyond their character archetypes. I don't know if I'm saying this the right way, but you see what I'm getting at, right? Maybe I'm just being too harsh here because it's John Green and he's become, like, the top dog of YA and basically everyone ever has read his books, but I don't know. They just fell flat for me. 

The second part of the book (and yes, I know I've already lost whatever semblance of structure this review might've had, but whatever.) was by far my least favourite. Maybe it was because of how slowly I read it, but it felt a bit boring to me. And I know that this was where we started getting to see who the real Margo was as opposed to the MPDG we met at the beginning, but a lot of it just felt like Quentin being annoying. Again, this may just be me being too harsh, but I have this problem with John Green's male narrative characters. I feel like TFiOS has definitely been Green's best book by far (to date). But yeah, Quentin just got on my nerves. And it's not that I have a problem with not liking main characters, because I have a certain appreciation for characters that I don't like, just like I have an appreciation for say Classics that I don't like (Of Mice and Men, looking at you.) It wasn't even that I didn't like him, though. I just wanted to shake him and tell him to get his head out of his constantly philosophizing ass. It felt like he was making everything about himself, even the stuff about Margo, and it just really frustrated me. But I guess he was flawed and a teenager and all those things, so I'll stop being hard on him. 

The road trip was completely and absolutely my favourite part of the book. It was the point that I thought the book had completely turned itself around for me and that I'd end it in tears and wanting to clap and hug it and all that (that didn't happen, but I'll get to the ending in a minute - I did warn you this would be a long one.) The road trip was the first time that I felt the rest of the characters start to come alive a bit, and I just thought that it was funny and insightful and struck the right balance between too much and not enough which I didn't think had really happened in the book until that point. Maybe that's just because I love road trips, though... 

I've already touched on how I felt about Margo by the end (which overall was a yay because I love Margo), but on the whole I felt a bit let down by the ending. Sure, it was nice, I guess, but it felt unjustified. It's quite difficult to write about without spoiling the whole thing, so I'm going to go the spoilers ahoy route so I can get it all out: We knew the whole time that Quentin had a thing for Margo, and had been all obsessed with his idea of Margo and had been crushing on her ever since he was nine and they found that dead guy, but then suddenly it turns out that Margo has a thing for Q, too? I don't know. I guess on reflection it was sort of nice that they have a bit of a thing, but it just felt wrong to me. It seemed a bit like one of those things where the kind of weird scrawny guy ends up getting the attention of the girl he's liked this whole time, and I still feel like they're both disillusioned about each other, and I don't know. I just wasn't too keen on it, is all. I'm sure other people thought it was the perfect ending and I hope you're one of those people because I'm interested to know why, and maybe that will help me realise why I didn't like it, or even help me to like it a bit! (Spoliers over).

Okay, so, there we go. Paper Towns. Why I kind of love/hated it. I think the root cause of this may have (ironically) to do with the theme of the book - building someone/something up to be so much greater in your imagiation that it's kind of let down when you actually get to it. But again, please remember that this is not a review. I absolutely do not want to out anyone off of reading this book, because I appreciate the book a lot. I really liked a lot of it. I really think that it deserves to be read by lots and lots of people. And maybe I'll read it again one day in the future with a brand new perspective and adore it, but right at this moment, it felt a bit off key and not the book for the person who I am at this moment in time. I'd like to know what you thought, though?

Sunday 10 February 2013

Letterbox Love #24

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

For review:
Rat Runners by Oisin McGann (Not heard of this one before, but it sounds interesting! Thanks Random House.)
Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones (I really love the sound of this one. Thanks Walker!)

Pandemonium by Lauren Oliver (about freaking time I bought this! It's been well over a year since I read Delirium, so I'm a bit foggy on the details, but I'm looking forward to reading this.)
Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion (I just saw the film yesterday and really enjoyed so I'm hoping that the book will be even better.)
Undone by Cat Clarke (*squeee* I am so excited about reading this! I've been waiting for it for what feels like forever.)

What did you get in your letterbox this week? :)

Thursday 7 February 2013

Scarlet review

Scarlet (Cinder #2)
Marissa Meyer
7th February 2013
Puffin Books

This is not the fairytale you remember.

But it’s one you won’t forget.

Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. The police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.

Meanwhile, in New Beijing, Cinder will become the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive – when she breaks out of prison to stay one step ahead of vicious Queen Levana.
As Scarlet and Wolf expose one mystery, they encounter Cinder and a new one unravels. Together they must challenge the evil queen, who will stop at nothing to make Prince Kai her husband, her king, her prisoner . . . (Goodreads)

I remember enjoying Cinder, but I don't recall it having had any lasting impact on me, so I was looking forward to reading Scarlet, but not Over The Top I Will Die If I Don't Have This Books excited. Well, I am now that excited to read Cress and Winter, the 3rd and 4th books in the series. This book really raised the game with the intertwining of both Cinder and Scarlet's stories and further developing the world that we were introduced to in the first book.

I was never really sure what to expect with this book after I'd finished Cinder, because I'd always been under the assumption that it was going to be a series of companion novels. However, with the cliffhanger that Cinder ended on, I knew that that couldn't be possible, so I hadn't been sure if it'd still be wholly Cinder's story or if they'd be bringing in a new POV character. I wasn't too sure initially if I'd really like it that much, but it really worked for me, and I loved getting to see how other people in the Earthen Union were effected by the Lunar's as well as learning more about the Lunar plans should a war happen.

One of the really great things that I actually noticed about these books this time around is the strength of the female characters. The books are absolutely right to be named after them  because both Scarlet and Cinder are wonderful and nuanced in different ways, and I'm hoping that we'll be able to see even more awesome ladies in Cress and Winter in all different capacities (because being physically strong is most certainly not the only kind of strong), as well as seeing Cinder and Scarlet develop even more.

We also got a few chapters from Prince Kai's point of view every now and again, which was interesting because it gave us a insight into what (he thought) the Lunar's were up to as well as getting to see what he thought about the whole Cinder is a Cyborg thing. I hope that he and Cinder will get to see each other again though, when the Lunar Queen isn't trying to kill them both and take over Earth. I think that that should definitely take priority over any romance.

On the subject of romance, I thought that Wolf was interesting, too. I definitely didn't anticipate what actually happened. I'm not going to spoil it for you (obviously) but it actually took me by surprise which was nice, but at the same time horrible because feelings. We are also introduced to a certain Captain (Cadet) Carswell Thorne, who I hope will hang around because I love him even though he's a bit of a tosser. He's one of those lovable cad types who gallivants around, not taking life too seriously until he is actually in danger. I was glad that there wasn't romantic tension between him and Cinder, though, because I like them as friends.

I really enjoyed getting to grips with the different setting, too. The first book was set in the Eastern Commonwealth (which I think is what it's called I'm not 100%) which is basically Asia, and this book was set mostly in France and a little bit on a spaceship. It's not a massive change or anything, but I just like getting the sense that it's not just a small thing that's going on, it's something that effects the whole planet. I really hope we'll get to see some more settings in the next two, particularly Africa.

Scarlet was an excellent sequel, fast-paced and gripping throughout with strong, interesting characters and an increasing sense of threat from the Lunar's. I cannot wait for book 3!

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