Book Review: Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver

beforeifall_movieeditionBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver   

Genre: Young Adult

Publishing Info: Kindle edition (first published 2010)

Pages: 484

Star Rating: 3.5/5

Back Cover Summary:

For popular high school senior Samantha Kingston, February 12—”Cupid Day”—should be one big party, a day of valentines and roses and the privileges that come with being at the top of the social pyramid. And it is…until she dies in a terrible accident that night.

However, she still wakes up the next morning. In fact, Sam lives the last day of her life seven times, until she realizes that by making even the slightest changes, she may hold more power than she ever imagined.

After I finished reading this book I really had no idea how I would approach writing a review for it. I went through so many different emotions as I read it. There were times when I hated, times when I loved it, times it made me sad, times I was frustrated by it. It was a rollercoaster.

The main character, Sam, was really irritating. At first I found that annoying, but then I realised she couldn’t be a nice person at the start, could she? How could there be a redemption arc (which is what Oliver seemed to be going for) if Sam was a good person from the start? So I accepted that I didn’t like her character, thinking that she would grow on me as she developed.

However, for most of the book she was still annoying. She was just so selfish. When she realised she was living the same day over and decided to do something good it wasn’t because she wanted to help the other person, it was because she thought it might be her ticket out of this endless loop. And even in the last section of the book, although she didn’t seem quite as selfish, I didn’t get the feeling she was doing the ‘good’ things totally selflessly. Maybe that’s the point though. Maybe if her character had done a complete arc from popular mean girl to selfless good girl in seven days I would have thought she changed too quickly or would have found it too cliché.

All of the characters were painted really vividly, even if I didn’t like all of them. Even characters who featured only a small amount felt like real people not just anonymous faces. The friendship between Sam and her friends was portrayed especially well.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Popular Books That Lived Up to the Hype

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday looks at popular books that lived up to the hype. I could name quite a few books that didn’t live up to their hype, but here are the ones that I think did. We’ll have to leave the ones that didn’t for another day.

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

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Mid-year Reading Round Up 2018

33154647We’re already halfway through 2018! So today I’m looking back at what my best books have been so far this year and looking ahead at what novels I want to sink my teeth into in the second half of 2018. According to Goodreads I’m on track to reach my 2018 Reading Challenge goal of 25 books, having read 12 so far this year.

Two books that I loved were Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray and The Young Elites by Marie Lu. Defy the Stars had me hooked all the way through and I loved the darkness of The Young Elites. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass was also a highlight.

I finished Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy but unfortunately was disappointed by the final book, Ruin and Rising. The series is still a favourite of mine though. Other books that didn’t live up to my hopes were The Girl King by Meg Clothier and S.T.A.G.S. by M. A. Bennett – both had great concepts and potential, but could have been much better.

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Book Review: S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett

35912128S.T.A.G.S by M. A. Bennett  

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Publishing Info: Kindle edition 2017 by Hot Key Books

Pages: 304

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Nine students. Three bloodsports. One deadly weekend.

A twisting thriller for fans of One of Us Is Lying and Pretty Little Liars.

It is the autumn term and Greer MacDonald is struggling to settle into the sixth form at the exclusive St. Aidan the Great boarding school, known to its privileged pupils as S.T.A.G.S.

To her surprise Greer receives a mysterious invitation with three words embossed upon on it: huntin’ shootin’ fishin’ – an invitation to spend the half term weekend at the country manor of Henry de Warlencourt, the most popular and wealthy boy at S.T.A.G.S.

Greer joins the other chosen students at the ancient and sprawling Longcross Hall, and soon realises that they are at the mercy of their capricious host. Over the next three days, as the three bloodsports – hunting, shooting and fishing – become increasingly dark and twisted, Greer comes to the horrifying reality that those being hunted are not wild game, but the very misfits Henry has brought with him from school…

Before reading this book I didn’t really know what ‘blood sports’ were so I wasn’t really expecting a book about a group of posh, aristocratic teens hunting deer, shooting pheasants and catching fish. I had to adjust my expectations a little as the term ‘blood sports’ and not knowing what it meant skewed my expectations a bit. I hope I’m not the only one who didn’t know what blood sports are…

The first few chapters of the book were written in a way that included a lot of summary, which I struggled to get into. Although reference to a murder on the first page certainly caught my interest. Fortunately, it didn’t continue with lots of summary and I enjoyed the writing more when the book got going.

I liked that it was set in England, that made a nice change, and how Greer often thought in terms of films as she has watched a lot of them with her dad, so her sphere of reference fit her interests. I enjoyed Greer’s character and her narration. Other characters, however, were not given much personality. The ‘villains’ of this book were very one-dimensional, quite clichéd, and given no individual motivations. They’re rich and evil and that’s basically it.

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Top 10 Tuesday: Books with my Favourite Colour on the Cover

Top 10 Tuesday was originally created by The Broke and the Bookish, but as of January has now moved to That Artsy Reader Girl. If you’re interested in taking part click here.

This week’s topic is books with your favourite colour on the cover or in the title. My favourite colour tends to vary a bit from year to year, at the moment I’m partial to purple so that’s what I’ve chosen for my list. This was a fun topic to research. Without further ado, here are some resplendent purple covers for you to enjoy…

1) Shadow and Bone Leigh Bardugo

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Top 5 Wednesday: 2018 Reading Resolutions

The first T5W of 2018 is about our reading goals for the next year. I don’t usually do this kind of thing, but it was actually interesting to sit and think about where I want my reading to take me over the next 12 months. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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1) Read more. In 2017 I read 38 books, but a lot of these were from my degree, when I had to sit and read them really quickly. When I don’t have that kind of deadline, it usually takes me 2-4 weeks to read a book. I want to spend more of my spare time reading, as I’ve not been spending as much time doing it as I used to.

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2) Read some classics. After spending 3 years slogging through classics (most of which I wouldn’t have chosen myself) I got kind of fed up of them and haven’t touched them since I finished my degree in June 2017. Months later, I finally feel like reading them of my own free will! So I want to get back into some classics of my own choosing this year.

3) Time for some contemporary. I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, and would like to read a few more contemporary/general fiction books.

4) Review the books I read. I don’t get round to reviewing a lot of the books I read. This year I want to blog reviews of as many of them as I can. I enjoy thinking about what I’ve read and sharing my thoughts, so really I ought to do it more.

5) Take a chance on me. With the Mamma Mia Here We Go Again trailer coming out, this song just popped into my head. I want to take a chance on books more this year. I want to not just keep reading safe books by authors or in genres I know I love. I want to step out of my comfort zone and read some books I’m not sure whether I’ll like, because I might just find a gem I might not have looked at otherwise.

Top 5 Wednesday: Top 5 Books of 2017

2017 has been an odd year for books for me. I haven’t actually read many I’ve loved. During my degree I spent so much time reading the literature on the course that I haven’t had much opportunity in the last three years to read books of my choosing. Saying that, a couple of the books on this list I read as part of research for my degree, so it did bring me to some books I’ve loved. These are my favourite books from this year. T5W is a group hosted on Goodreads, if you’d like to participate check it out here.

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1) Replica by Lauren Oliver

This was the first book I read in 2017 and has remained one of my favourites. The format of it, with the two stories in one, was a really interesting way to tell the story but also so much more than just a gimmick. I can’t wait to get my hands on the next book – Ringer – which came out a couple of months ago.

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Book Review: Soulmates by Holly Bourne

16099393Soulmates by Holly Bourne

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: 2013 by Usbourne (kindle edition)

Pages: 548

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Every so often, two people are born who are the perfect match for each other. Soulmates. But while the odds of this happening are about as likely as being struck by lightning, when these people do meet and fall in love, thunderstorms, lightning strikes and lashings of rain are only the beginning of their problems. After a chance meeting at a local band night, Poppy and Noah find themselves swept up in a whirlwind romance unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before. But with a secret international agency preparing to separate them and a trail of destruction rumbling in their wake, they are left with an impossible choice between the end of the world, or a life without love…

 

This book takes the popular cliché of soulmates and puts an interesting spin on it. It was interesting to see a different side to the idea, but although the concept was good, the story was a little weak. One thing I did like was that it was set in the UK, as most YA books are set in the US. This made a nice change for me since I’m from the UK.

It was very slow in places and fairly predictable. There were points where I found myself getting bored but decided to persist to find out what would happen in the end. Some scenes dragged too much. A lot of the book was orientated towards building the characters and showing their relationships to each other, which was done well, but there was just too much of it. The characters were likeable and well rounded, but the lack of plot and conflict dragged the book down.

The last quarter picked up the pace but then it lost me again with such long explanations about the science behind soulmates. It wasn’t that it was overly scientific, Bourne did a good job of explaining it, but it was just too drawn out for me and my interest dwindled. The emotions were written very well in the last section of the book, and it was heart wrenching to read at times. The ending was one of the strongest parts for me. It didn’t fall into the formula of typical endings and provided a sad, but more realistic, ending than many books.

I didn’t dislike it, but it’s just one of those books that isn’t very memorable.

Book Review: Crank by Ellen Hopkins

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Crank by Ellen Hopkins

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Poetry

Publishing Info: 2010 by Margaret McElderry Books (first published 2004)

Pages: 537

Star Rating: 4/5

Back Cover Summary:

Kristina is the perfect daughter: gifted high school junior, quiet, never any trouble. Then she meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild ride turns into a struggle for her mind, her soul–her life.

Ellen Hopkins, whom mediabistro.com has called “the bestselling living poet in the country,” exploded onto the young adult scene with her first novel, Crank, which has become a national bestseller. School Library Journal acclaims Crank as “a stunning portrayal of a teen’s loss of direction and realistically uncertain future.” Publishers Weekly raves, “[Hopkins] creates a world nearly as consuming and disturbing as the titular drug.”

Crank is a transfixing look into the tortured lives of addicts and the people who love them.

Crank is the second book by Ellen Hopkins I have read and, like Impulse, takes the form of the novel in verse, or verse novel. I was pleasantly surprised to have enjoyed the verse novel form when I read Impulse, and was keen to read more by Ellen Hopkins. Once again Hopkins tackles a serious issue head on. While Impulse looked at mental health, Crank follows its protagonist through drug addiction.

I don’t know much about drug addiction and have never read a book about it, so I found Hopkins’s blatant and open address of the issue difficult to read but enlightening. The verse novel form particularly suits the subject matter in this case, and Hopkins uses the verse brilliantly, fully capitalising on its potential. The poems are written in erratic stanzas that range across the page, with some of the verse in ‘normal’ stanzas and some spread across the page, others formed in shapes, and many other myriad and interesting styles. This reflects the erratic Kristina and the highs and lows of her addiction.

The other characters were fairly typical and flat as they weren’t given the time to become well rounded characters. However, I didn’t feel this was as big an issue as it would be in other books since the focus of the story is very much on Kristina’s internal conflict with her addiction. The plot was also fairly predictable in places, with some eye rolling on my part at some points which appeared to be presented as ‘twists’ but which weren’t all that surprising. Yet, as with my previous point, it didn’t really matter that much to me because it’s more of a character and emotion driven story that a plot focused novel.

The book was well paced and being told in verse didn’t hinder it carrying a strong narrative. However, the ending felt quite rushed compared. The last several poems summarised the end of the story too much, meaning it lost the emotional impact it had carried in the rest of the book.