Book Review: Anything That Isn’t This

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Chris Priestly’s Anything That Isn’t This is one of the strangest, weirdest, bleakest books I’ve ever read and I absolutely loved it. I’m aware that I may be in the minority or at least on one side, as I’ve noticed from reading some reviews that at least half of readers either didn’t like this book or thought it was merely average. Whatever their reasons, I don’t agree with them. This is my kind of book. It’s quirky, strange, wonderfully grim and still, at the end of it all, hopeful.

The book is about Frank, who lives in this boring old town that suffers (although much of the people just go on with life in complete denial) from the overbearing presence of The Grey, which is basically the awful government in power in this alternative reality world. Frank lives at home with his parents and The Student, one of the many workers in this Grey world that are there to observe and record the behaviours and actions of the families. The Grey dictates many things, including the destruction of books through cutting out the last 25 pages of every book so as to ruin the reading experience, the entertainment the populace are allowed to enjoy, the celebrations of war-time heroes and the fact that the only thing anyone could possibly do to earn a living is work at The Ministry doing tireless, repetitive and “important” jobs. 

I found all of this, the way The Grey shadows everything and the way the whole political system works and adds to the setting of the novel, extremely interesting. I can see how other readers might’ve found it all a bit confusing and ambiguous, but that’s only because there’s very little spoon feeding of explanations or information. You have to read into the story to figure out what exactly is going on, and by the end of the novel, you’ll get it. I like that Priestly didn’t spend a chapter explaining the world or the history in that boring HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TO UNDERSTAND, DUMMY kind of way. Instead, he just takes you straight into Frank’s world as it is and you have to work a little harder to get it. And that’s what makes it a really good story and a really good piece of writing.

Frank himself is pretty gloomy and annoyed at the world. So, yeah, it’s a bit of a glum novel. But, to me, it’s glum in a way that is true to the setting and the characters and the general feeling of the story. Not once did I think something like ‘Oh, Frank, get over it’ because I thought he had every reason to moan and groan. And in saying that, the novel as a whole is not a gloom fest. I found Priestly’s writing style so good that I was constantly amazed by the way he told the story and the way he made me laugh, often even during the gloomy parts.

I like Frank and I also like a few of the other characters, even some that I didn’t really expect to like. I wholeheartedly dislike one female character in particular for reasons that should be obvious to anyone who reads this book. Gosh, she was awful.

I really like the story and I really like how it all turns out for Frank. The plot is kind of hard to explain in a way that doesn’t give away what happens, but expect romance, heartbreak, violence and mystery alongside the theme that constructs the whole novel, the desire for something more.

Of course, I can’t say that is is a perfect novel. There were some things that felt rushed or too slow going in the story for me, but that’s a minor negative to this novel. I think it’s pretty brilliant and that it’s certainly a novel I won’t forget about any time soon.

Book Review: The Museum of Heartbreak

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The Museum of Heartbreak was a pleasant surprise. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it nearly as much as I did, nor to read it quite as quickly as I did (it’s only a short novel, but I read it in a day). It was a really entertaining and relatable read. It made me laugh, made me think back to my high school days and made me wish I had a friend like Penelope.

The book is about Penelope, who creates her own personal Museum of Heartbreak when she experiences heartbreak for the first time. And not in the way you’d first think! (Although who she gets heartbroken over is pretty predictable, but in the best way predictable can be!). The whole concept is so creative and works so well as the backbone for the story as a whole. I love the collection of objects that are part of the museum and how they start each chapter. Brilliant! The meaning of the novel is wonderful and important, and I loved it because I know that we’ve all felt the things Penelope does in our lives. We’ve all been there.

Penelope is one of the best YA Contemporary heroines I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading about. I think she’s wonderful. Hilarious, honest, quirky and just someone I know I’d get along with so well. She believes in true love, she loves reading and writing and she loves dinosaurs (among many other wonderful things). She’s great. Definitely the highlight of the novel. Without her as the main character, I wouldn’t have liked the novel nearly as much. Even if one of her best guy friends Eph had still been in it. And he was pretty wonderful 🙂 There are a number of great characters in this novel, and there are also a few characters that we’re meant to flat out hate. If you read it, you’ll know exactly who they are. I think I’m in the small percentage of people, however, that didn’t really like Pen’s other best friend, Audrey.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It was smart and entertaining. There were some things I didn’t like about it, but such things I can’t mention without being spoilery, but I will say it has everything to do with Pen’s falling in love with a certain douchebag. I just didn’t get why she liked him from the start…but sometimes we’re all blind when it comes to those things.

But, really. When a book has an awesome Buffy conversation at the start and talks about dinosaurs a lot, how can I not like it? I definitely recommend this novel to those of you who enjoy relatable high school tales about true friendship, love and life museums.

Book Review: The Girl From Everywhere

The Girl From Everywhere was a very promising book in the beginning. The opening was strong, as were the introductions to the characters, especially Nix, her father Slate (the Captain) and her best friend Kashmir. These three characters are brilliant throughout the story, and I think it’s worth reading just to see how their characters develop as part of the plot. Heidi Heilig is definitely an interesting writer, and there were some lines and descriptions that hit me in a wow way.

The overall concept of the story is really cool. Nix’s father is able to Navigate through time on their ship The Temptation using maps created or dated in that time, and he’s desperate to go back to 1886 to save Nix’s mother, who died shortly after Nix was born. The problem with this is it could ultimately mean Nix would cease to exist. So, really, a large chunk of the book is asking, will Slate choose the lover he lost or the daughter he gained?

I really liked the characters, the overall concept and how the story was written in general. However, while I was really enjoying reading the book up until the halfway/last quarter point, keenly wondering how it would end, there were a lot of things that just didn’t work for me in the book and the ending was a disappointment. Not so much what happened in the ending, but more how it all happened.

Unfortunately, this is another novel that, for me, started really well and then just fell apart nearing the end. It was another novel that just felt as though it went all over the place and rushed. I hate it when novels feel like they’re rushed. It means loosing so much of the story and it just turns into something really anti-climatic. I think I would easily have liked this novel a lot more had it been longer, had there been just a bit more…

There were also some plot developments and particular characters I just didn’t like. I can’t really go into that without giving things away, but I suppose it’s largely to do with Nix and the two male companions of hers. One in particular I didn’t like. While Nix wasn’t much like many other girls in YA novels who can’t pick between her suitors, and I say kudos to that, I still didn’t really like her relationship with one of the guys. It just didn’t work for me, mainly because I just found him so annoying… Man, it’s hard to write a review without being spoilery! I think I just felt like that particular storyline did nothing for the story as a whole, and that there was no real conclusion about Nix’s feelings for both of the guys… it kind of just dwindled, much like the last quarter of the book.

So, all considered, this book wasn’t bad. I enjoyed a chunk of it, and didn’t really enjoy another chunk of it. It had so much potential, but when it came down to it, it just didn’t stick. A shame, really! Because it could’ve been a really brilliant book. But, still, I think it’s good for a time travel adventure novel and quite possibly other readers would like it much more than I did.

2-starsstar-147897_640

All The Birds In The Sky: Book Review

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I read this book because my boyfriend had bought it purely based on the cover, which is so, so pretty! If this book was in a competition for most beautiful cover, I’d definitely vote for it! It gets full marks for that. But this isn’t a review about the cover alone, so I will now move on to talk about the book itself.

Now, I liked this book. That’s the simple response.

The main reason I liked it was because it was so different to anything I’ve ever read before. It was weird in the best way possible and wonderfully quirky. Charlie Jane Anders is an incredibly unique writer and I really enjoyed the way she portrayed the plot, characters and themes in the novel. It was so charming and hilarious and, in a weird way, the book was like a friend I’d like to have.

I’ll tell you a little about the plot: It’s basically a story about a friendship between a witch named Patricia and a scientist named Laurence and what happens to them as their conflicting careers battle it out at the end of the world. The book is largely about their friendship, starting from when they were children and going into adulthood. However, it’s also largely about their characters as individuals, which I really liked as I thought they were fascinating. Especially Patricia. It was really enjoyable to read about what happened to them and how they developed as people, and also as witches/scientists throughout their lives. The plot is also a lot of fun and a really great read. Overall, I really enjoyed the whole concept of the novel. It was very, very clever.

However, there are a few things that dropped my rating of this novel down a whole star. Up until about two thirds of the way through the novel, I was pretty sure I’d be giving it a 4/5. But, somewhere in the last third of the novel, things got a little odd. It didn’t feel like the story was flowing as well as it had the rest of the novel. It felt like I was missing a lot of story, that it was kind of rushed. A hell of a lot happened in a short amount of time, and I think that just disconcerted me.

Along with all of that, there’s one scene that I just didn’t like and made me all squeamish. I don’t know if that might just be me and my preference to what I want to read when it comes to particular activities that adults get up to (if you know what I mean) or if it was because, even though this isn’t a YA book, it had felt like one up until this particular scene. Maybe there was a weird genre mash that just didn’t compute to me. Whatever the reason, it changed my mind about the book and from that point I was a bit disappointed by it and certainly not in love with it anymore.

However, there were still so many things I liked about this book. I think it’s definitely worth reading. It’s super interesting and the characters are depicted so well and are just great to follow around for the entirety of the story. Apart from the few misgivings I had towards the end, I enjoyed this book quite a bit and think you should pick it up if you’d enjoy a story about friendship, romance, family, magic, science and the end of the world. All The Birds In The Sky will make you feel a lot of things, that I can guarantee :).

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The Raven King: Book Review

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I was pretty excited to read this book and find out how it all ends for Blue, Gansy, Ronan, Noah and Adam. I read the first three books of The Raven Cycle pretty much one after the other last year and enjoyed them a lot, especially the first two. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this one nearly as much. I don’t know if that’s because I’d moved on from Cabeswater in the last year, which could easily be the case. But I also have a suspicion that it’s because a lot of things just didn’t sit right with me this time around, and this is the main problem I had:

It didn’t feel like a finale to me. It felt…slow. It felt like nothing really happened until the last quarter of the novel. It felt like the characters (and thereby the story) was kind of just…dawdling. Dawdling along to fill in the time until we would find out what happened in the end. It confused me. The characters and the story just didn’t fit together as well as they had in previous novels. It was like they just weren’t talking to each other. There was, a times, this strange, disconnected vibe. Not just between the characters themselves, but also, I guess, between myself and the story.

I’m probably not really explaining this really well.

Basically, the novel wasn’t the exciting finale I was expecting. It felt mainly like filler and unfortunately this meant that by the time I reached the ending, it was simply just anti-climatic to me. A little disappointing.

Having said all of this, there were some things I quite enjoyed about this book. I like Maggie Stiefvater’s witty and unique way of writing. Her snarky style had me giggling a fair few times. I enjoyed the banter between the characters, and the group interactions were nice when we did get them. There were some particular developments I liked (not that I can mention them because of spoilers), even if some were a little predictable. I quite liked Henry, which I hadn’t expected. As always, I really liked Blue’s interaction with her family. And the magical, often dark, element of the book was really good.

I read this novel half-entertained and half-confused/bored. It was an odd reading experience. It’s a shame I didn’t like it as much as did the others. I’m sure there are a lot of fans who really enjoyed this book, as I can see why some people would enjoy it. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t anything special to me.

2-starsstar-147897_640

Read my review on the first three books of The Raven Cycle here.

Have you read The Raven King or the prequels? What did you think of it? 🙂

The Dark Tower: Book Review

First of all, I have no idea how to write a review on this PHENOMENAL series of books. It’s a pretty regular occurrence for me to not really know how to start a review, but this time I’m seriously lost. How do I begin to explain how very incredible these seven books are. I can’t do it with Harry Potter properly and I don’t think I can do it with this series either. There’s just no way to write a good review here, no way at all. Stephen King’s Dark Tower series is just one of those stories that you just have to read to know what the hell everyone is going on about, to understand how amazing it is. So, I guess the second thing I can see in this review is simply, READ IT. Just do yourself a favour and read it. I promise you, you won’t look back.

Last night, with my very excited boyfriend beside me (he has been waiting a long time for me to read the whole series) I finally finished the very last book of The Dark Tower, also titled The Dark Tower. And well, that was definitely an experience. Just finishing it. I can’t even…

See, this is also the trouble. I can’t spoil anything so that makes it even harder to write a coherent review. I just want to shout out all the things that happened and KDKFKFKFKDDDKKDKDJDDKD KDMDKKDKDKDKKDKDKDKDKDKDDKKDKA!!!!!  Ahem. Sorry. I must behave myself because, after all, it’s much more fun to go into a series like this not really knowing anything about it like I did. It makes it so much more worth it.

Before The Dark Tower, I’d only read King’s first novel, Carrie. Which was a good story, but nothing all that special. If you’ve never read any King or have only read some of his stand-alone books here and there, don’t let that be telling of The Dark Tower. Because The Dark Tower is completely out of this world, it’s not even on par with any other book, let alone another Stephen King book. It’s the most epic fantasy series I’ve ever read and even though I haven’t exactly read loads, I’d bet buckets on the fact that it doesn’t really get better than this.

This much you can know: The Dark Tower is a story about the last gunslinger, Roland Deschain, who is on a journey through a crumbling world that will only end when he finally reaches the Dark Tower. That’s the basic story, but of course, the story is in no way basic. It’s so complex, full of mystery, danger, violence, humour, love, startling plot lines and best of all, some of the most unforgettable and lovable set of characters I’ve ever known in a book series.

As I was reading this series, I can’t deny that I had some grievances with certain things that happened, but by the time I read the ending, I felt that all of it made so much more sense and that it couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s so very clever, King is an absolute mastermind. I am super sad now that I’ve finished the series and really do wish I could go back and start reading it all over again, not knowing a thing about it once more.

I’ll have to leave it there or I’ll be in danger of giving everything away and we don’t want that.

I very, very strongly recommend that you go pick up the first book in this series, The Gunslinger, and start reading from the first incredible line ‘The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed’ to the very end.

5-stars

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: Book Review

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It’s amazing to think that it was 9 (NINE) years ago that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was published. That utterly flabbergasts me, makes me think time is a magical conspiracy designed to fool people into thinking they’re really not growing old at all, that years aren’t passing by, that we have all the time in the world. But before we know it, we’re no longer teenagers in line at the book store waiting to hold the final book of a beloved series, and though we still obsess and keep this magical world in our hearts, we’ve moved onto other things (though this might not be entirely true, for as I well know, besides a few life-changing experiences now under my belt, I may as well still be that excited teenager waiting in queue, wearing a Harry Potter t-shirt and gripping my $20 note).

Until, at least, our beloved author of said magical series announces an 8th Harry Potter book. And well, then we’re all just back to being children again, giddy about finding out more about our favourite characters and our favourite world, counting down the days until we can pour over those special pages and either be consumed by happiness or disappointment, depending on whether we loved or hated it.

This time I didn’t line up to buy Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Instead, it arrived at my new flat in England rather timely the day after it was published as an early birthday present from my boyfriend. I poured over the covers last night, in awe at having it in my hands and I waited until today to read it, wanting to savour for the moment just a little.

The book, or I should more accurately call it a screenplay, took me no more than 5 hours to read. And in my honest opinion, it was a 5 hours very well spent. Spending most of the day reading Harry Potter in bed was something I spent a lot of time doing from the age of 9 – 17, and having that again with The Cursed Child was one of the few things I can describe as true happiness. Getting to spend time with Harry, Ron and Hermione again and getting to know new characters like Albus and Scorpius was wonderful and enjoyable and I loved every minute of it.

I am in danger, as always, of getting a little too spoilery (this is sort of a bad habit of mine), so I will only say a few more things about The Cursed Child.

Yes, I really liked it, but that does not mean it is in any way a perfect Harry Potter book, and because of these various things I know that a lot of people won’t like. But I’ll let people come up with their own opinions on these things.

It’s very different to any other Harry Potter (I mean, it’s a script so that’s to be expected), but I really enjoyed this kind of format and while I think the richness of the story would be better portrayed in the play itself, I thought it was still a great way for us fans who likely won’t be able to see the play to read the story. The only problem with this is that I think it has the danger of being read as something with less depth and meaning. Some people might read it and think it’s a load of hogwash, because, as a script, there are details missing and there’s less text, and this makes it easy for readers to not pause to think about scenes and rush through it instead. It’s a completely different reading experience to a novel, and I personally enjoyed it, but can see why some wouldn’t.

Some of the characters do often seem a little out of character, in a way that’s not on purpose (you’ll get what I mean by that if you’ve read it). Sometimes I found myself thinking, ‘would (insert character name) really say/do that?’ This happened with Harry and Hermione, actually. There were moments I was questioning whether I liked the characters any more at all. But these moments were only sparse, and generally I liked the character development and the way they had all changed (or not) in 19 years. And it all seemed to conclude in a way that was more believable. Though it is a shame that some characters didn’t appear in the book at all (not saying who).

Ron, as always, was perfect. He made me laugh and he was exactly as Ron should be. I can’t really name other characters that were also perfect as that would be too spoilery, but there were some very epic moments between the characters, whether they’re beloved by all the fandom or characters we love to hate, and it was all pretty brilliant to see.

I have to say my favourite thing about The Cursed Child (besides any part with Ron), and this I think all fans will agree with, was Scorpius, and in relation to that, Scorpius and Albus’s friendship, their interactions with Rose Granger-Weasley and I guess Albus himself (although I can’t say I loved Albus, I did like him a lot, and thought he was a really well-put together character. His struggles with his dad, our Harry Potter, were super emotional, realistic and well-written). Scorpius and Albus have one of the best “bromances” I’ve ever seen, very close to what Ron and Harry have. They are so great together and every one of their scenes was incredibly entertaining, hilarious and, dare I say it, heartwarming.

But, I have to give a special shout out to Scorpius. I didn’t expect to like him as much as I did, but I really really do. He’s my new favourite HP character. Okay no, no one beats out over Ron, but Scorpius Malfoy sure does come close. He’s very witty and clever, though he often loses confidence in his abilities, and becomes hilariously dubious under pressure. I thought he was fantastic and I’m so glad we got to see so much of him in this book.

It’s ridiculous. Yes, this book is incredibly ridiculous. The plot is whacky, I have to say. But I enjoyed it. It was entertaining, funny, emotional and clever. I felt like it even made a joke of itself, like it made a joke of what loads of Harry Potter fans have said about the Harry Potter plot holes for years. Again, you won’t know what I mean unless you’ve read it :).

No matter how crazy the plot was, I really really enjoyed reading The Cursed Child . One things for sure, if I had a spare £100 lying around, I’d be going to London tomorrow and doing all I could to get tickets for the play. The Cursed Child was magical and a lovely read and I’m very happy that I decided to still read it despite disenchanted reviews I’ve read.

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