contemporary · review · young adult

Beautiful Broken Things – Sara Barnard

 

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Blurb: “Best friends Caddy and Rosie are inseparable. Their differences have brought them closer, but as she turns Sixteen Caddy begins to wish she could be a bit more like Rosie –confident, funny and interesting. Then Suzanne comes into their lives: beautiful, damaged, exciting and mysterious, and things get a whole lot more complicated. As Suzanne’s past is revealed and her present begins to unravel, Caddy begins to see how much fun a little trouble can be. But the course of both friendship and recovery is rougher than either girl realizes, and Caddy is about to lean that downward spirals have a momentum of their own.”

The story is told from the perspective of sixteen year old Caddy who is practically joined at the hip by her best friend, Rosie. That is, until new girl Suzanne moves to town and befriends her. As always happens when you gain a new partner in crime, Rosie cannot stop talking about how great Suzanne is to have around. Much to Caddy’s dismay.

Caddy becomes increasingly jealous of Rosie’s newfound friendship and goes out of her way to be harsh and is ignorant when she’s forced to speak to her. This leads to an uncomfortable conversation between a group of friends that results in Caddy learning a big secret about Suzanne. After that, she starts being a little nicer to her.

Now that Caddy knows the true reason why Suzanne moved to town to live with her aunt, the pair begin to bond more, going out on adventures in the night together. In a kind of coin-flip twist, Rosie is suddenly more on the outside, jealous that Caddy is replacing her, even going on to say “how are the two of you better friends than the two of us?”

What could possibly make this drama any worse? Why, liking the same guy of course! Rosie likes boy, Suzanne also likes boy, Suzanne gets with boy even though she knows Rosie likes him too. A major girl code violation if ever there was one.

Obviously there is a bit more depth to the story than that, but to go into it all would be a spoiler. Not that I cared much for this book.

The night time adventures felt reminiscent of Paper Towns, minus the revenge plots. I didn’t really connect to any of the characters and felt like story – despite the serious  underlying theme – was flat.  It just felt more of a young young adult book and I think that played a big part into why I didn’t enjoy this book. But can I really blame the book itself or the writing for that.

I just felt the experience feeling very “meh” after reading reviews and hearing people raving about this book.
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review · romance

The Great Gatsby – F.Scott Fitzgerald

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Blurb: “Generally considered to be F.Scott Fitzgerald’s finest novel, The Great Gatsby is a consummate summary of the ‘roaring twenties’ and a devastating expose of the ‘jazz age.’ Through the narration of Nick Carraway, the reader is taken into the superficially glittering world of the mansions which lined the Long Island shore of the American seaboard in the 1920s, to encounter Nick’s cousin Daisy, Jay Gatsby and the dark mystery which surrounds him.”

 

If anyone was to ask me which books are my absolute favourites of all time, I would tell them that The Great Gatsby has sat very comfortably in my top three from the moment I finished reading it. I have read it many times, and the great joy about this book is that I learn something new/gain a new perspective almost every time I re-read it.

Although I have to admit, I first read it for slightly selfish reasons: Leonardo DiCaprio had just been cast for the Upcoming 2013 adaptation. So I picked up a copy to read it in preparation for that. If that wasn’t the case, this book would probably have sailed by me without notice. Alas, I didn’t expect to come out of the initial reading experience of this book feeling quite changed, or that it would bring on a book hangover that would last me four months.

The story follows Nick Carraway who moves to the West Egg district of Long Island where he intends to become a part of the Bond business in New York. He is a man of small money and subscribes to the idea of the American Dream (“life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement” regardless of social class or circumstances of birth). He lives across the bay from his cousin Daisy who is married to the rich Tom Buchanan who believes very firmly that white people are the superior race and it should stay that way.  But these are not the focus of Nick’s curiosity, that role is taken by the mysterious Jay Gatsby who lives in the mansion next to him, and occasionally throws lavish parties which are attended by thousands. One day Nick receives an invitation to one of Gatsby’s parties. Upon his arrival, Nick discovers that he is the only person to be given an invitation – the other guests have simply turned up. Not only that, but no one has actually seen Gatsby in person.

 

What initially looks like a short (115 pages in the Wordsworth edition) story about elitist, rich folks in the roaring twenties has many cracks forming under the surface. While Daisy seems to be naive, selfish and stupid, one line she utters about her daughter in the book gave me chills, and this one simple line changed my perception of her: “I hope she’ll be a fool – that’s the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.” Albeit it only a tiny bit.

Nick is the perfect example of a person getting wrapped up too much in other people’s problems and failing to see the monumental flaws they have. He seems unable to see someone outside of the pedestal he so highly places them on.

And Gatsby?
Well, you’ll have to pick up this truly phenomenal book to find out more about him.

The writing is utterly gorgeous and I can only hope that the rest of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s work lives up to this wonder.  Honestly, I could talk non-stop for hours about how much I love this book.

Also the 2013 adaptation conveys everything I love about this novel, despite apparently being very controversial. But who knows, maybe I’ll do a blog post on that another day.

 

 

 

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Dystopian · review · young adult

Blood, Ink And Fire – Ashley Mansour

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Blurb: “Imagine a world without books…
In the future, books are a distant memory. The written word has been replaced by an ever-present stream of images known as Verity. In the controlling dominion of the United Vales of Fell, reading is obsolete and forbidden, and readers themselves do not—cannot—exist.
But where others see images in the stream, teenager Noelle Hartley sees words. She’s obsessed with what they mean, where they came from, and why they found her.

Noelle’s been keeping her dangerous fixation with words a secret, but on the night before her seventeenth birthday, a rare interruption in the stream leads her to a mysterious volume linked to an underworld of rebel book lovers known as the Nine of the Rising. With the help of the Risers and the beguiling boy Ledger, Noelle discovers that the words within her are precious clues to the books of the earlier time—and as a child of their bookless age, she might be the world’s last hope of bringing them back.”

*I was sent this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This book, as mentioned in the blurb, is about the world after books have fallen out of existence. I was nervous going into this because the last book I read about the destruction of books not because the idea of books being harmed in any way is scary to me, but that I read “Fahrenheit 451” and I didn’t enjoy it.

The story follows Noelle who is about to celebrate her seventeenth birthday upon which she will have her immersion. Noelle lives in the UVF (United States of Fell) in one of twenty vales. The four laws of this world are as follows:

  • No valer may leave the UVF without being sanctioned for transfer.
  • Every Valer must absorb Verity’s stream and undergo immersion.
  • Any valer found in possession of the written word, and shares it is considered a traitor.
  • (unstated) Valers don’t discuss treason.

Each home has a stream called “verity” which is a virtual fortress of information. “Verity” prepares those underage for immersion via lessons and generates pictures to the valers of that home.

Noelle likes to play games with her friend John. In these word games, John describes something and Noelle tells him the word for it. John reveals that he is leaving, gives her a map, and tells her to find him before she gets taken for immersion. “Verity” picks up on this and share’s it with Noelle’s family who ban her from seeing John.

Of course, she does what every teen does and runs away, taking her mother’s ID pass to get the train on this little adventure. Noelle meets John’s Grandma who has an actual, physical book and Noelle discovers that she is a reader – the last of a dying breed. Noelle’s actions have devastating consequences. Noelle is forced on the run but determined to fight the people who ruined her life. If only John hadn’t started acting…odd.

This book, from the outside, seemed to have an interesting concept. Given that books pretty much rule my life, it’s terrifying to think about what would happen if they were taken away. It has some current YA tropes running through it that I can see bringing in fans of YA dystopian however, it has a bit of a love interest and some… weird, creepy and irrelevant romance. Things also get very confusing. Even after reflecting on the book when I’d finished (and in fact upon reflection when writing this review) I don’t understand entirely what “Verity” is. And the fact that it wasn’t explained in a way I sort of understood until a good half, maybe even three quarters in, meant I lost my thread and I have to admit, I skim-read the last half.

Noelle was a great character but she was just stuck in the middle of a confusing, not well explained story.
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contemporary · review · romance · young adult

Under The Dusty Moon – Suzanne Sutherland

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Blurb: “Victoria Mahler is the sixteen-year-old only daughter of rocker Micky Wayne, whose band, Dusty Moon, took the world by storm when Micky was just a teenager. The band broke up under mysterious circumstances, but, after years spent off the road being a mom, Micky’s solo career is finally starting to take off. When an offer to tour Japan falls into her mom’s lap, Vic is left to spend the summer under the care of her distant grandmother, and without her built-in best friend. Fortunately, a boy with a secret geek side and a group of feminist game-makers save the season, and Vic starts to see herself as her own person, out from under her mother’s shadow.

But when Micky finally comes home — with a poorly chosen boyfriend in tow — all bets are off. Will Vic be able to maintain her newfound sense of self amidst the building thunder of Micky’s second chance at stardom? And through it all, will Micky still really be her best friend?”

*This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

The story follows Victoria who has spent her life growing up in her mother’s shadow. Why you ask? Because her mother is Micky Wayne, the ex-frontwoman of a popular band called Dusty Moon. The group has long since disbanded but Micky took on a solo career. Every year on the Island there is a big music festival, and this year they’ve asked Micky to play.

Victoria takes a back seat for a fair amount of the novel as she tells the teacher about Micky: her life in the band, her tackling being a mother, her life after the band. While Micky is interesting, cool, rocker mum, and certainly catches the reader’s attention, I was curious to learn who Victoria was when her mum was taken out of the equation.

Victoria is a typical teenager. She spends time working on things with her best friend (mainly ideas for a video game) and crushing on a boy she worked with once on a drama project a while ago. The boy in question is Shaun and she plucks up the courage to ask him out on a date. Everything goes well… until she accidently takes him to a nudist beach. And after the date she has a bike accident leaving her with a broken arm.

Victoria is flying high until Micky announces she is going on tour in Japan for two weeks, to be followed shortly after by a six week tour of Europe. So Victoria gets dumped on her Grandmother. Then she discovers that Shaun, now her boyfriend, is a massive fan of Dusty Moon and he doesn’t know who Victoria’s mum is.

This is the kind of book that teenage me would have eaten up in a heartbeat. Any book that was music related or about bands had my pocket money straight away. So choosing to read this book was like going back to a younger me. Even looking at this from an adult perspective, I could relate to Victoria when she was over-analysing her text messages with Shaun and any interact with him, the whole “be cool be cool” only to be anything but cool. Victoria is the kind of person I would have loved to be my friend (and not because of her mum!)

It’s just a simple, coming of age novel, featuring your typical teenage things but that doesn’t make it any less of a book. I think this story will stay with me for a while.
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book tag · discussion · fantasy

Throne Of Glass Tag

This tag was created byAlexaLovesBook and Soobsessedwith and when I saw it was Throne of Glass themed I HAD to do it!

Lysandra – a book with a cover change you loved

 

 

Ironically my choice for this one is the book this tag is based off. Throne of Glass definitely has one of the best cover re-designs I’ve seen. I didn’t know there was a different cover until I saw it in one of jessethereader’svideos. I’m not a fan of books with models/real people on the cover. It just puts me off a bit. The new cover is simple, white and the drawing of Celaena is just so badass.
Abraxos – a book that’s better on the inside than it looks on the outside

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It’s not hard to ignore that the first edition cover of The Great Gatsby is well… not nice. I’m taking this topic in the sense of the book cover is awful, but the story inside is truly wonderful. There’s rich people, lavish parties, secrets and lies. I Love it so darn much.

Erilea – a series with great world building

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The world that immediately came to mind is that of the Darker Shade of Magic series.  In this book there are four different Londons: Grey London which lacks magic and is ruled by a mad king, Red London were magic is revered in a flourishing empire, White London ruled by whoever murders their way to power, and Black London… which no one mentions. The description of each of these realms is so rich and beautiful. I felt like I was walking through them while reading this book.

Rifthold – a book that combines genres

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Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children is told through the medium of prose and creepy old photographs. It takes the basic things that make something horror-esque and combines it with magical fantasy elements. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did because horror just isn’t for me. But this book is too good not to miss.

 

Damaris – a book based on/inspired by a myth or legend

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Hear me out on this one… Yes I have mentioned before on this blog that I’m not a fan of Percy Jackson, nor do I intend to finish the series BUT I have read The Lightning Thief and this was the first (and only) thing to come to mind when I looked at this question.

Kaltain Rompier – a book with an unexpected twist

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The last book I read that really made me gasp, splutter and drop it was A Grimm Warning which is the third book in The Land Of Stories series. Seriously, this ending nearly killed me. I need to get on to the fourth book pronto!
Assassin’s Keep – a book with an unreliable narrator

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I brought this up with a group of people a while ago and they disagreed with me however, I find that the protagonist – Charlie – is unreliable. The story is told through letters he writes to someone unknown (it reads like he’s writing the letters to you) talking about aspects of his life, mainly his internal struggles. Some of the things he chooses to and not to tell just makes me doubt whether I can trust him.

Asterin Blackbeak – a book that’s got squad goals

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Ultimate squad goals award goes to the shadowhunters of The Mortal Instruments universe. They just make a really cool badass team with the occasional help of warlock Magnus Bane.

 

Terrasen – a book that feels like home

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Harry Potter has been such a monumental part of my life. I grew up reading these books. I followed the characters from children to adulthood as I went through the process myself. Even though I hated school, the idea of Hogwarts (even with the workload) just fills me with warmth and happiness in a world where I can use Accio to get me things when I’m too lazy to move. Whenever I pick up any of the books and re-read them, I feel like I’m going home and returning to old, well-loved friends.

 

Aelin Ashryver Galathynius – a book with the power to destroy you

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Allegiant – the final book in the Divergent Trilogy – utterly ruined me. This was the most I’ve cried reading a book next to Harry Potter. I think this is probably my favourite in the trilogy because even though the ending is so bittersweet, it feels like the right ending for this book.

 

Manon Blackbeak – a book that intimidated you

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This is without a doubt one of the most beautifully written books I have ever read. And I doubt I will find anything in my lifetime that tops it. This is the story of a German girl called Liesel who steals books… and the narrator of her adventures is death. You read that right, death. However, this book is huge. I am quite a quick reader but it took me a good month to get through this one.

 

Ronan Whitehorn – a book that makes you swoon

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I had to sit and think really hard for this one. I guess I’m just cold and heartless as I resorted to scrolling through my read list on Goodreads in the hopes of finding a suggestion. Then I came across Eleanor & Park. This book is so cute and the relationship formed between Eleanor and Park is adorable.

 

Chaol Westall – a book that challenged you to see things differently

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I bought a copy of this book along with the new, recently recovered Which Pet Should I Get? Purely because there was a line from Oh The Places You’ll Go that helped me get through high school: “You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself any direction you choose.” I knew this quote but had never actually read the book.

As a recent university graduate who is back in her hometown, living with her parents, not exactly doing or being where she wants to in life, I feel a bit stuck. Reading this book helped get things into perspective for me and made me see that sometimes being stagnant is all part of the journey and just because I’m in this position now, doesn’t mean I will be forever.

 

Fleetfoot – a book that you received as a gift

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This books was given to me as a git by my wonderful writer friend Jenny.  It’s an Alice In Wonderland spin-off kind of thing. I am still yet to read it but look how gorgeous this cover is!

 

Eye of Elena – A book you found right when you needed it

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I discovered this book at a really difficult time in my life and without it, I truly don’t know where I would have ended up. It gave me the courage and the strength to keep going on, when all I wanted to do was give up.

 

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discussion

A Conversation With Rod Duncan

 Rod Duncan is a Leicester based author, screenwriter and Creative Writing university lecturer. He has been nominated for the Philip K. Dick and East Midlands book awards. During my time at De Montfort University, I had the pleasure of being taught by Rod who told many stories from his path to being published, to The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – the first book in The Fall Of The Gas-Lit Empire. Now on the release of the third book in the series, The Custodian of Marvels, Rod answered a few of my burning questions.

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With the release of your new book, The Custodian of Marvels, finally here how are you feeling?

Although there is more of the adventure to come, this book brings the story to a significant moment.  So I am really excited about it.  I’m so happy that it’s finally out there and people are going to be reading it.
When you started writing the series, what was the first aspect to jump out at you? (for example, a character, plot idea)

I began with the city of Leicester and the many traces of the Victorians who built it. That started a story. But I only knew it was going to be a novel when I discovered the voice of Elizabeth, the protagonist. And then, as I began to understand who she was and where she came from, I realised it was going to be a whole series of books.
At the States of Independence festival last March, you did a talk on Steampunk which has become a sort of identifier for this series. Did steampunk act as an inspiration or has it just been associated with your work?

Some people have called the novels steampunk and some say they are ‘gas-lit fiction’. Others say they are crime fiction and other others say they’re alternate history!  I see all those labels as influences, but I never felt constrained by them.  The story had a life of its own and, to a certain extent, I followed to see where it would take me.

Which character was the most interesting for you to write?

I have to be interested in all my characters. That is the only way I can write them.  Often there are things about them that I know but never get to tell the readers.  A few of those secrets are revealed in The Custodian of Marvels. I’m very interested to see how the readers react to those revelations.

 

Did you struggle writing any of the books and if so, which one?

The most difficult was The Custodian of Marvels – because there were plot strands from the previous two novels that needed to be woven together. And there is a heist element to the story – which is technically intricate to plot. But I think it is the strongest book of the three. I’m really delighted with the way it all worked out.

 

Are there any books that got you into writing?

Listening to the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on BBC Radio 4 was the first time I really became aware of authorship. I remember thinking – Wow! Someone wrote this. Someone created it out of their imagination. That was very inspiring. But I didn’t at the time think I could write anything.  I’m dyslexic and writing was very difficult for me back then.  But later, after the word processor came along and I did start to write,  I remembered that moment and it felt significant to me.

 

How do you handle rejection/negativity on your work?

I wrote several novels before I had my first one published. So I did go through the whole  rejection thing. It was difficult. But I always felt compelled to go back and write another one.

I’ve been lucky with reviews of my books. Most people have been very positive. But it’s important to not get fixated on trying to please everyone.  I write the kind of novel I would like to read and happily there are people out there who have similar tastes. But if someone hates it, that’s fine. It wasn’t meant for them.

 

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Never say: ‘I want to be a writer’. If you feel compelled to write, then you are one already. Accept it. Other people might judge you not a ‘real’ writer until you win a prize or get a publication deal. But the day before you get that big break you’ll be just the same writer as you are the day after.

It’s fair enough to say: ‘I want to get published’.  But don’t let the goal make you miserable. So long as each new thing you write is a little bit better than the last, be happy. And if you keep that up then the other stuff will follow.

We’re all on the same journey.

 

Finally, and most importantly, what can readers expect from The Custodian of Marvels?

You can expect the return of some characters from The Bullet Catcher’s Daughter – both friends and enemies. There will be a heist and secrets will be revealed about the origin of the Gas-Lit Empire. And there’ll be a lot more besides – but I don’t want to spoil it for you.

 

 TheCustodianOfMarvels-144dpi“You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared International Patent office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to do.”

The Custodian of Marvels is out now in the UK on Ebook and audiobook platforms and will be available in  physical form from 11th February. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rod can be found here on Facebook and here on Twitter.

 

review

The Custodian of Marvels – Rod Duncan

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Blurb: “You’d have to be mad to steal from the feared international patent office. But that’s what Elizabeth Barnabus is about to try. A one-time enemy from the circus has persuaded her to attempt a heist that will be the ultimate conjuring trick. Hidden in the vaults of the patent court in London lie secrets that could shake the very pillars of the Gas-Lit Empire. All that stands in Elizabeth’s way are the agents of the patent office, a duke’s private army and the mysterious custodian of marvels.”

If you thought Unseemly Science was a rollercoaster then prepare to pull down the safety barrier because you’re about to ride another.

Elizabeth decides it is time to get to the bottom of things. She tries (and forcibly succeeds) to get into a university to see Professor Ferdinand who she believes can help her understand the importance of The Bullet Catcher’s Handbook.  Professor Ferdinand begrudgingly reveals that each copy of the book is different: while some famous sayings are present in the pages, others are less common, and that it’s clear sayings have been passed down the generations. The Professor tells Elizabeth that the copy she has can be thought of as a branch of a family tree that he had thought extinct. Therefore, the book she has is priceless.

Elizabeth is more alone than ever. Julia is off finally fulfilling her ambition of studying law so only has time to communicate with Elizabeth via infrequent letters.

While Elizabeth reminisces on things, giving the reader an insight into parts of her life she has previously kept very private, an old enemy from the circus shows up with proposition. He needs help to break into the patent office and Elizabeth has the talents to do it.

Elizabeth also reveals more of her past regarding the Duke of Northampton and blames him for the downfall of her life: “The day that is clearest in my memory is the one where my father told me to grab my things and run. The duke’s men-at-arms had found us and were on their way. It was the last day I saw him.”

Naturally, Elizabeth has many plans for revenge.

It’s really hard to talk about this book without spoiling everything about it, so my kind-of-synopsis is going to end there.

As for my thoughts on this book, there were so many great things.
It was interesting to see Elizabeth’s dynamic change. In previous books it’s only really been Elizabeth and Julia (who was mostly absent from Elizabeth’s criminal/private detective happenings) with Tinker becoming a prominent second character in the last book. However, in this one she becomes part of a team and it was really interesting how a character who suspects every single thing and person could possibly WORK together with a group of people. It was satisfying seeing Julia continue to defy her mother and finally make it into studying law and how he has blossomed as a result. (I’ve been really rooting for her since the first book okay)

Once again, Rod delivers that outstanding level of writing where every word is placed so delicately and with precision that you forget you’re reading a book. I often found myself slightly confused when I looked up and was sat on a train or the sofa rather than someone in the world of his books. And it has been a true joy to experience.
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