Book Review: Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy  

Publishing Info: KindleEdition, January 2017 by Hodder and Stoughton

Pages: 416

Star Rating: 2/5

Back Cover Summary:

Scarlett Dragna has never left the tiny island where she and her sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval—the faraway, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show—are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt-of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. Nevertheless she becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic. And whether Caraval is real or not, Scarlett must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over or a dangerous domino effect of consequences will be set off, and her beloved sister will disappear forever.

I was very conflicted over how to rate and review this book. I’ve had Caraval on my Kindle for a little while and was excited to finally get round to reading it. So many people love this series and the concept sounded really intriguing. Unfortunately I didn’t love it from the start. I didn’t enjoy the first half all that much, but things picked up in the second half and I found myself a lot more absorbed.

I can’t quite place my finger on why, but for some reason I just wasn’t hooked from the opening few chapters. Even once Scarlett reached Caraval, I didn’t feel engaged. I was expected to be enchanted by this story, but in the first half I was actually a little bored. I found Scarlet to be an irritating protagonist at the start. Her thoughts were very repetitive and I just didn’t connect with her character. She didn’t want to be there. So I didn’t want to be there. I think if Scarlett had been more excited about the magic and wonder of Caraval, I would have been too.

Scarlett’s focus is on finding Tella and there is some jeopardy around that, but we don’t get to know Tella that well at the beginning of the book, so I wasn’t really invested in the goal of finding her. I liked that she isn’t the cliché sweet sister, but I didn’t find her particularly likeable from what little we see of her before she disappears, so I just wasn’t worried about her. Later we do get to see there is more to Tella, but for most of the book I didn’t like her character.

Read More »

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 »

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: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

23664731Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance

Publishing Info: September 2015 by Corgi (first published 2015)

Pages: 308

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

I have very conflicted feelings about this book. On the one hand, it was really interesting to see the world from a different perspective in YA, but on the other I’m not sure about how Yoon handled the subject matter. The novel is told from the perspective of Maddy, who has SCID and has not been able to leave her house since she was a tiny baby. The house is adapted with air filters and she has a nurse stay with her all day.

In the first section of the book I really felt connected to Maddy’s character and got a real sense of her isolation from the rest of the world. Despite this isolation, she wasn’t unhappy. She gets on well with her nurse, Carla, and has a great relationship with her mother. I liked seeing her interactions with these two characters in the first half.

Read More »

Film Review: Far From the Madding Crowd

Release date: 6th March 2015

Director: Thomas Vinterburg

Starring: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen, Tom Sturridge, Juno Temple

Runtime: 119 minutes

Genre: Period Drama

Watched in: 2D

Rating: 5/5 stars

I haven’t yet read Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, so I’ll be reviewing this from the point of view of someone who hasn’t read it. However, I have read Tess of the D’Urbervilles, which is probably my favourite classic. There is something about Hardy’s work that I just love, and having seen this film it’s made me want to read more of his books, including Far From the Madding Crowd.

Anyway, back to the film. Carey Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdeen (yes, every time someone said ‘Everdeen’ in the film Katniss popped into my head), an independent woman who gains an increase in her social status after inheriting her uncle’s farm. Being very independent, she comes across an inner conflict when three men begin courting her (don’t worry, it isn’t a pathetic love triangle or anything).

I don’t really have anything to criticise about this film because I absolutely loved it! It held my attention from start to finish and there were some surprises along the way. Typically of Hardy’s stories it is very realistic and less flouncy than other period dramas like Jane Austen, so don’t go in expecting Pride and Prejudice, this is a very different style. The filming was excellent and I felt immersed in the atmosphere of the film.

In terms of the acting I thought it was excellent. All of the actors did amazing jobs and none of them were weak. Carey Mulligan did a great job in the strong female lead, presenting the character’s few vulnerable moments as well as the headstrong moments. Each of the ‘love interests’ were well acted and every one of them is fleshed out and have their own character arcs, rather than just serving as the ‘love interest’ as in many romantic films.

It goes without saying that I love the plot. There’s lots going on and unlike many period dramas which are often quite slow there always seemed to be something happening in this film.

There isn’t much else for me to say because I absolutely adored it and will definitely be buying the DVD when it comes out and reading the book too!

Book Review: The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

The Driver’s Seat by Muriel Spark

Genre: Adult, General Fiction, Mystery

Publishing Info: 2006 by Penguin Books (first published 1970)

Pages: 128

Star Rating: 3/5

Back Cover Summary:

Lise is thin, neither good-looking nor bad-looking. One day she walks out of her office, acquires a gaudy new outfit, adopts a girlier tone of voice, and heads to the airport to fly south. On the plane she takes a seat between two men. One is delighted with her company, the other is deeply perturbed. So begins an unnerving journey into the darker recesses of human nature.

It is important firstly to say that this isn’t a book that everyone will like. Being written in 1970 it is in many ways very different to the books we commonly find on our shelves now. It is short, more of a novella than a novel, and for fast readers you could probably get through it in one sitting (assuming of course that you found it engaging enough to do so). It tells the story of Lise, an eccentric girl who goes on holiday and whom we are told (very near the start of the book so this isn’t a spoiler) that she will be founded murdered by the end of the day. We spend the rest of the novel following her around wondering who the murderer will be.

I felt no attachment to Lise. Really and truly we know hardly anything about her. The narrative is written in a way that we are very detached, almost like reading a police report or looking in from the outside. In a day and age when we like to be ‘connected’ to the protagonist this can feel like a very odd experience.

Being so sort there is little plot, basically just a ‘who murdered her?’. In a way it is intriguing, though also baffling because much of it is confusing and seems illogical. However, the end is a good plot twist which I wasn’t expecting and which made me look at what I had read in an entirely different light to how I had done while reading up to that point.

It is certainly not a book for everyone. At the end you are left with numerous unanswered questions and frankly feeling rather confused about the whole affair. But, being so short at least if you didn’t like it, it wasn’t too much of your time wasted.

Book Review: You by Caroline Kepnes

You by Caroline Kepnes

Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Thriller

Publishing Info: Kindle Edition, Published September 2014 by Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Pages: 433

Star Rating: 4/5

 

Back Cover Summary:

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.

There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

A terrifying exploration of how vulnerable we all are to stalking and manipulation, debut author Caroline Kepnes delivers a razor-sharp novel for our hyper-connected digital age. You is a compulsively readable page-turner that’s being compared to Gone Girl, American Psycho, and Stephen King’s Misery.

 

You is at once an incredibly unique, interesting, disturbing and gripping contemporary suspense novel. It isn’t exactly a romance, as the nature of Joe’s obsession over Beck makes it too unnerving to be classified so. It is the only book I have ever read that is written entirely in second person. At first, it felt a little odd to read, but it is written so well that after a while it feels natural, and I felt it wouldn’t have worked so well if it had been written in any other way. In many ways the book reminds me of The Collector by John Fowles, but Kepnes definitely puts those ideas of obsession into a contemporary novel with new verve.

When Beck walks into the bookshop where Joe works he is instantly captivated by her. He stalks her, falls in love with her, and ensures that their paths cross again. The novel tells the story of how Joe’s feelings develop, how their relationship changes, and how he would do anything to get her, and keep her.

Joe is a very interesting protagonist. He is very much an unreliable narrator and it is both interesting and disconcerting to see the world through his eyes. Without giving away any spoilers, partly what makes him that way is how he is so in love with Beck, but shows a complete lack of emotion and compassion in some of the acts he carries out. He shows many characteristics of a psychopath, and although it doesn’t state he is one, I am pretty sure he must be. I like how Beck, the ‘love interest’, isn’t perfect. She has many flaws and is a very realistic character. So it was a nice change to read about imperfect characters, as so many books these days are all about how wonderful love is and happy endings. You, on the other hand, shows the destructive nature of love and moves away from idealised storylines.

For the most part, the novel kept me hooked, although towards the middle I did begin to get a little tired of it, just for a few chapters. There were plenty of unexpected turns, both in the plot and in Joe’s emotional state. Although, there were a lot of pop culture references, of which most people wouldn’t understand all of them.

However, it could have been better. It is by no means a perfect, five star book. The idea has been done before, and although it was written in a fresh and interesting way, I felt Kepnes could have twisted the plot a bit more. I would have liked her to have shaken things up just a bit more.

This is by no means a book that everyone will enjoy. Some will absolutely hate it. But I found myself liking it. There is something interesting in the way it is so creepy, something that really grabbed my attention and intrigued me. If you’re interested in psychology then you would probably like this. If you are after a romance story, this is not the book for you.