Book Review: Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Gut Feelings by C. G. Moore

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: January 2021 by UCLan Publishing

Pages: 400

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

At school, I learned that words,

More than weapons,

Could destroy bodies,

Could break hearts

More than fists or fury.

This is the story of Chris, what happened to him at age eleven and how that would change the rest of his life. A life-affirming and powerful coming of age verse novel that shines a light on chronic illness, who we are and how we live.

Gut Feelings is an own voices novel in verse based on the author’s own experiences of living with Familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP). FAP is an inherited disorder characterised by the rapid growth of small, pre-cancerous polyps in the large intestines.

I found reading this novel incredibly moving and cathartic as I recognised some of my own experiences of chronic illness reflected in the pages. Similarly to the narrator of the novel, Chris, I was diagnosed as chronically ill at a young age, when I was ten years old. There are so many parts of this book I could quote, but I chose just a few to include in this review that really resonated with me.

“This room is no place 
 For a child
 That wants to run and swim, 
 Bike his way 
 To the top of the hill. 
 I listen and obey
 As curtains close 
 Around me –
 Around my future.” 

While the condition I have – Crohn’s disease – is a different condition to FAP, there is some overlap in symptoms and treatments as both affect the intestines. I could relate to the blood tests, the colonoscopies, the hospital visits, the surgery, the anxiety around having to rush to the toilet, of praying to make it through an exam, and issues of body image and scars. I could relate to the confusion and the fear of being faced with a diagnosis at such a young age.

Read More »

Book Review: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Book cover of Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Mass  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy    

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Bloomsbury

Pages: 648

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Celaena Sardothien is cloaked in her assassin’s hood once more. She is back in Rifthold, but this time she is no one’s slave. She must delve into her most painful memories and fight for her survival, while resisting a smouldering passion that might very well consume her heart. And she will face her former master, the King of Assassins, again – to wreak revenge for a decade of pain…

*This review will be spoiler-free for Queen of Shadows but may include spoilers for the previous books in the series*  

Queen of Shadows is the fourth book in the Throne of Glass series and the best instalment I’ve read so far. It brought together all the threads that Maas has been weaving for the previous three books and, well, it was pretty epic.

In Heir of Fire, Celaena was away in Wenlyn learning to use her magic. While I enjoyed the training sequences, I so loved seeing her in Rifthold in Queen of Shadows, back where everything started. This book brings the story full circle, as she finally confronts her past with Arobynn. Our protagonist grew a lot in Heir of Fire, and now she finally seems to have transformed into Aelin. Her character hasn’t changed completely, but I could see she was a different person to the Celaena we saw in Throne of Glass, and we get to see her become the queen she is.

Manon was introduced as a new character in Heir of Fire. I loved her story in the third book, but her storyline didn’t intersect with any of the other characters’ stories, so I was wondering where Maas was going with this one. In Queen of Shadows, however, we get to see more clearly how her storyline relates to the wider plot. This is another character who we see slowly shift over the course of the series. I really appreciate how Maas slowly develops her characters.

Read More »

Book Review: The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

The Midnight Star by Marie Lu

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Publishing Info: October 2016, Penguin

Pages: 319

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Adelina Amouteru is done suffering. She’s turned her back on those who have betrayed her and achieved the ultimate revenge: victory. Her reign as the White Wolf has been a triumphant one, but the darkness within her has begun to spiral out of control, threatening to destroy everything.

When a new danger appears, Adelina must join the Daggers on a perilous quest in order to save herself and preserve her empire. But this uneasy alliance may prove to be the real danger . . .

The Midnight Star absolutely destroyed me. The first two books in the Young Elites trilogy were dark and suspenseful, so the concluding chapter had a lot to live up to. And it was even better than its predecessors.

What I love about this series is how we see the darker side of our protagonist – Adelina. We see through the eyes of a character who has suffered a lot, been shunned by society, and who wants to make things better for people like her. Seeing her darkness grow over the course of the series was a refreshing change from the typical hero arc. Many of the other characters are also complex. There aren’t many straightforward heroes here, and I loved that. Despite their flaws, Marie Lu made me really care about these characters, and I didn’t realise quite how much until this final instalment of the series.

The last few chapters were so beautifully and heartbreakingly painted by Marie Lu. I can’t say too much without giving any spoilers, but the setting of the conclusion was so ethereal and I could visualise it so clearly. I very rarely cry at books, but the final chapters of The Midnight Star had me properly crying. How could I not give a book that made me feel so many emotions five stars?

This is a brief review because I don’t want to give away spoilers for the first two books, and I don’t really have any criticisms for The Midnight Star because it was just so good. The only thing I could say is that it was very short, and I kind of wished it had been longer, but I am also glad it wasn’t overly dragged out.

The Midnight Star is a superb conclusion to a brilliant trilogy. It follows a character down a path of darkness, a character who isn’t a typical hero, and I found that so refreshing. I cannot recommend this series enough.

Book Review: It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne

It Only Happens in the Movies by Holly Bourne  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishing Info: October 2017 by Usbourne Publishing

Pages: 410

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Audrey is over romance. Since her parents’ relationship imploded her mother’s been catatonic, so she takes a cinema job to get out of the house. But there she meets wannabe film-maker Harry. Nobody expects Audrey and Harry to fall in love as hard and fast as they do. But that doesn’t mean things are easy. Because real love isn’t like the movies…

The greatest love story ever told doesn’t feature kissing in the snow or racing to airports. It features pain and confusion and hope and wonder and a ban on cheesy clichés. Oh, and zombies… YA star Holly Bourne tackles real love in this hugely funny and poignant novel.

This is my second book by Holly Bourne and she is definitely a talented writer. Once again, I found myself sucked into the story. She has a way of writing YA contemporary books that just reads so naturally and is really easy to connect to. I wish her books had been out when I was a teen because they are just so good and really relatable, and so amazingly feminist too.  

What I loved about It Only Happens in the Movies is that it’s fun and humorous, while also giving a really realistic portrayal of teen life. The book examines all the clichés you find in romance films and how unrealistic they are. As much as I do enjoy a good romance flick, they don’t explore any of the messy bits of relationships and can be so predictable!

Holly Bourne is really honest about the ups and downs of being a teen. So many YA romance stories almost feel like a fantasy in a way, because there are often a lot of clichés and predictable endings, but It Only Happens in the Movies feels so real and relatable.

There are some really well-written sex scenes and conversations about sex and the anxieties around experiencing it for the first time. Audrey’s parents are also going through a divorce and Holly Bourne portrayed the conflicting feelings and raw emotions of that experience so well.

If you haven’t read any of Holly Bourne’s books yet, I would thoroughly recommend them! I especially recommend to UK readers! There aren’t enough books set in UK high schools and sixth forms and I so enjoyed reading a book with a setting that I could relate to more than the typical US high school stories. I shan’t talk about the ending, because I don’t want to spoil it, but it was a very satisfying conclusion to an excellent book.

Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary

Publishing Info: November 2018 by Walker Books, Special Collector’s Edition (first published 2017)  

Pages: 480

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

The Hate U Give is an outstanding and powerful novel. I bought this book last year but I don’t read much contemporary. Fantasy and science fiction are much more my thing. So even though I’d heard so much about it, I still hadn’t read it months after buying it. Then, two weeks ago, George Floyd was murdered by a white police officer in the US, and Black Lives Matter protests started up all around America and in other countries too. This prompted me to finally pick up The Hate U Give, and I’m really glad I did. 

As a white person, I can’t possibly imagine what it is like to experience racism and live in fear of the police in the way that black people do. But in The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas put me right in Starr’s shoes. I felt her fear, her pain, her sadness, her frustrations. Reading articles and non-fiction is a great way to learn, but fiction can be so impactful. It can really place you in someone else’s shoes and show you what their experience is like. Not only does it show police violence and the injustices of the American justice system, but it also provides an insight into day-to-day racism and microaggressions that black people sadly have to live with.

Starr is a brilliant character and I loved reading her and Khalil’s story. This is a book about a young woman who has witnessed a terrible crime and who finds her voice to stand against racism. Starr grows so much over the course of the book. At first, she is afraid. She witnessed the death of her best friend and she goes through so much dealing with what she witnessed and she’s afraid of the repercussions of speaking up. But she’s also angry with the way Khalil is being talked about by people and portrayed by the media, and angry that Khalil’s murderer could escape justice. Alongside this are Starr’s relationships with her family, friends and boyfriend, which are masterfully woven through the novel. I loved every character and loved seeing her family interact. This book is full of so much emotion and heart.  

The Hate U Give is well-written, well-paced and has so many brilliant characters. While reading it I laughed, I cried, I screamed at the injustice. All the elements that make a great book just come together perfectly. I had no hesitation giving it 5 stars. This is one of those books that will stay with me forever. It’s important because of the subject matter it tackles so well, but also because it’s just such a good book. I really think this is a rare, flawless novel. Although it’s about police brutality, it’s also full of love and hope. The Hate U Give is a book that everyone should read.

Book Review: Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance  

Publishing Info: January 2017 by Simon and Schuster Children’s UK (first published 2016)

Pages: 669

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

It’s been five years since the events of City of Heavenly Fire that brought the Shadowhunters to the brink of oblivion. Emma Carstairs is no longer a child in mourning, but a young woman bent on discovering what killed her parents and avenging her losses.

Together with her parabatai Julian Blackthorn, Emma must learn to trust her head and her heart as she investigates a demonic plot that stretches across Los Angeles, from the Sunset Strip to the enchanted sea that pounds the beaches of Santa Monica. If only her heart didn’t lead her in treacherous directions…

Making things even more complicated, Julian’s brother Mark—who was captured by the faeries five years ago—has been returned as a bargaining chip. The faeries are desperate to find out who is murdering their kind—and they need the Shadowhunters’ help to do it. But time works differently in faerie, so Mark has barely aged and doesn’t recognize his family. Can he ever truly return to them? Will the faeries really allow it?

Glitz, glamours, and Shadowhunters abound in this heartrending opening to Cassandra Clare’s Dark Artifices series.

I have loved Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunters series for what feels like a very long time. City of Bones was my introduction to her world many, many years ago. She releases books so quickly, I’m trying to catch up! I thought I might get bored of them, but I haven’t so far. I love returning to the world of the Shadowhunters every time I pick up one of her books.

Lady Midnight is the first in the Dark Artifices series and is set a few years after The Mortal Instruments. When I finished reading it, I just sort of sat at stared at my bedroom wall for a minute because I had so many feelings about this book. The characters and their relationships are what makes this book so good. I just became so invested in the Blackthorn family. And Cassandra Clare is really good at giving you hope for characters and then tearing your heart to shreds (in the way a good book does).

Emma and Julian are the two main characters, but all of the others stole my heart too. From Cristina, to Mark, Livvy, Ty, Dru and little Tavvy. I loved seeing the family interact and how Julian has had to bring them up, they’re like his own children despite him being their older brother. It was also great seeing how Mark changed over the course of the book and I’m interested to see where his character goes in the next book.  

Read More »

Film Review: Emma

Film Review: Emma

Release date: 14 February 2020

Director: Autumn de Wilde

Starring: Anya Taylor-Joy, Jonny Flynn, Bill Nighy, Mia Goth, Miranda Hart, Josh O’Connor, Callum Turner

Runtime:  125 minutes

Genre: Period drama, romance, comedy

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

This most recent adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma is my first experience of her well-known novel. I’ve read Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, but not yet read Emma (though I’m sure I will having thoroughly enjoyed this adaptation). I’ve also not seen any other film or TV versions before, so wasn’t familiar with the plot before seeing the film. Emma is handsome, clever, rich and admired by those in her town. She’s an ambitious matchmaker but on her mission to make matches for others, discovers love herself.   

This adaptation is brilliantly filmed and acted. I was captivated and enthralled from start to finish. Anya Taylor-Joy plays Emma brilliantly, with her facial expressions and delicate touches of body language bringing the character to life. I love how Emma isn’t a typical heroine, and how she grows over the course of the plot. The chemistry between Anya Taylor-Joy and Johnny Flynn is evident from the start and I revelled in their exchanges throughout. The casting overall was superb. Bill Nighy is excellent as Emma’s father and provided a lot of the comedy moments. As a big fan of Miranda, it’s always a joy to see Miranda Hart and she was very well cast for her role.

The set design, costume design and cinematography is sumptuous and vivid. There are no drab period rooms here, but a bright, pastel palette that’s a wonder for the senses. Every scene pops off the screen. I am no historian, and have absolutely no idea whether the sets and costumes are historically accurate or not, but from a viewer perspective they were sublime.

Read More »

Book Review: Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction

Publishing Info: October 2015 by Oneworld Publications  

Pages: 602

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the worst thing she’d ever been through. That was before her planet was invaded. Now, with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra are forced to fight their way onto one of the evacuating craft, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But the warship could be the least of their problems. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their biggest threat; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady plunges into a web of data hacking to get to the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: Ezra.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents–including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more–Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I’m not sure how to approach this review as this book is so different from other books I’ve read. All I can say for sure is that I absolutely loved it. After I finished it, all I could think was wow. I had to wait a while before writing this review so I could process how I felt about this book.

 Illuminae is told in an epistolary style through a mix of interviews, reports, emails, diary entries and more. This makes it a unique reading experience, which does make it hard to compare to other books. It’s very visual as well. The artwork makes it really feel like you’re reading a file of documents.

I don’t know why it took me so long to pick this book up as it’s just the kind of unique thing that I would like. I think I did have reservations of whether the style would actually work and whether I would connect to the characters, which is perhaps what stopped me from picking it up in the past. But I really did not need to worry about that. Even though it’s told in this fragmented style, all the various documents flow really well so that skipping between different reports and emails and conversations didn’t feel fragmented, it felt like one long narrative. I also really connected with Kady and Ezra, and even many of the other more minor characters, even though the novel isn’t written in a traditional style. The voices of all the characters really pop off the page.

Read More »

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

12406320Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor  

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Romance

Publishing Info: Kindle edition September 2011 by Hodder (first published 2011)

Pages: 448

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

Errand requiring immediate attention. Come.

The note was on vellum, pierced by the talons of the almost-crow that delivered it. Karou read the message. ‘He never says please’, she sighed, but she gathered up her things. When Brimstone called, she always came.

In general, Karou has managed to keep her two lives in balance. On the one hand, she’s a seventeen-year-old art student in Prague; on the other, errand-girl to a monstrous creature who is the closest thing she has to family. Raised half in our world, half in ‘Elsewhere’, she has never understood Brimstone’s dark work – buying teeth from hunters and murderers – nor how she came into his keeping. She is a secret even to herself, plagued by the sensation that she isn’t whole.

Now the doors to Elsewhere are closing, and Karou must choose between the safety of her human life and the dangers of a war-ravaged world that may hold the answers she has always sought.

The first in a trilogy, Daughter of Smoke and Bone is a phenomenal book. The world is so imaginative and captivating, it didn’t take me long to fall in love with it. I very rarely give 5 star ratings, because I usually have something to criticise, even something small, or it just doesn’t blow me away enough to warrant 5 stars. I had no hesitation giving that accolade to Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

I didn’t know what to expect from this book from the rather mysterious summary. It certainly piqued my curiosity. I don’t want to say too much about the plot, because it’s not knowing what’s really going on that kept me hooked, so I don’t want to spoil that for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. Karou lives in the human world, but the only family she has known seem to occupy an ‘Elsewhere’ place that they won’t explain to her, leaving her in the dark as to why Brimstone, her guardian, sends her on missions to buy teeth. Karou is so curious about what he uses these teeth for, and I was compelled to keep reading to find out why too. What’s great is that it wasn’t predictable.

Read More »

Book Review: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Genre: General Fiction, Contemporary Fiction

Publishing Info: May 2013 by HarperCollins (kindle edition)

Pages: 320

Star Rating: 5/5

Back Cover Summary:

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.

There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.

There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.

The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.

The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

The Shock of the Fall wasn’t what I expected. It was more. It was a rollercoaster of emotions and sometimes I felt like I was drowning in the words but I couldn’t stop reading. The words, so simple, but drew me in so much and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget this book.

I read the kindle edition, and I think it would be better to read it in paperback. It was fine reading it on kindle, but I think the experience of it would be better in physical copy. There are images and different fonts used, which I think would be easier to see in paperback.

There isn’t exactly a plot, so to say. It’s mostly the narrator, Matthew, talking about his past and life. He is mentally ill, diagnosed with schizophrenia in the book. It was a real delve into the character’s mind, of how his thought processes work and how he conveys things in his writing (the narrator is writing their story). I really felt like I was seeing things through his eyes. I was in his mind, feeling his thoughts and feelings.

Read More »