Jo Macklin:

World of Writing

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This is where I talk about and review the books that I have read. I not only plan to tell you if I enjoyed the book or not, but I would also like to give you my story of reading it. Everyone has a story with every book, where they were when they read it, how they felt about it and what was going on in their lives at the time. I truly believe that a review is only so good as the context that the reviewed item was experienced in. I promise to be honest - I hope that you enjoy it!


The Winter Witch


By Paula Brackston


 

I was excited about this book because the author, Paula Brackston, comes from my area of the UK, and she even went to the same university that I went to. So as an aspiring writer, I like the idea that someone who grew up just like me has got a book out there for me to read! The actual book is alright – it was a little slow and it took me a while to finish it. But, I liked the characters and the love story was slow but enchantingly realistic and I really felt as though I was routing for them the whole time. If you are looking for a book that will take you over and that you won’t be able to put down, it might not be the best choice, but it is a good one to start if you are going to be interrupted lots because it is easy to pick right back up again.



Leaving Time


by Jodi Picoult

 

 

I really believe that receiving a book for a Christmas present is one of the most special things you can get from a loved one. Especially when they have clearly thought about you when choosing it. I was given this book by my Mum and Step Dad as a Christmas present – it matches me in so many ways. Firstly, the whole book is based around Elephants. I have an obsession with elephants. I sometimes play a game with people that visit my house, getting them to count all of the ornamental elephants in the house. They never get them all! I have elephant necklaces, elephant earrings – I even have elephants on some of my clothes. I have actually ridden on one in Thailand, but it terrified me so I don’t often include that one! Secondly, the book has an interesting take on the connection and emotions between mother and daughter – or at least, the concept of mother and daughter, as well as the physical blood connection. My mum is my best friend – she was maid of honour at my wedding and has always been the first person I go to in every situation. Thirdly, one of my favourite things to read about is the idea of a magical world amongst our own – something that is so realistic that it might just be possible. I love reading different ideas and takes on fantasy fiction – it reminds me that the world is an incredibly interesting and adaptable place. The book itself was great, but very frustrating. It was like the writer was pulling me and pushing me in all sorts of directions. You find out one piece of information, then it cuts to a whole load of scientific elephant facts (told by one of the lead characters). As much as I love elephants, and the stories about the elephants were fascinating and so beautiful, I wanted to know about the story more. The characters were fantastic, the unusual friendships and relationships were brilliant and unique. I feel as though I know so much about elephants now! One thing I didn’t get out of it was the mother/child unconditional bond thing that I was promised. I was hoping for a bit of a tear jerker that would make me feel lucky for my connection with my mum, and get excited for a future connection with my own child someday. But the only sense I got of that was from the Elephants, and how we as human mothers don’t really have the devotion to our children that the elephants show. I did kind of miss that as I made my way through the book. If you feel that when reading the book, don’t let it stop you. I won’t say anything else, because it really is the kind of book that everyone should add to their list, but what you feel at the end of the book is totally worth your perseverance. It isn’t the kind of book that you miss when it’s over, and I didn’t get obsessed with it to the point of not putting it down (well, until the end), but it was beautifully written, had stunning descriptions and imagery on every page, and it tells the story of elephants that people don’t usually think about but needs to be told.



Four


By Veronica Roth

 

I love the Divergent books and I was so excited to see that Veronica Roth had written a fourth book, which is the story told by another perspective – ironically, a character called Four! I couldn't wait for it to come out, then I saw it on the shelves earlier than I was expecting so I was a very happy reader! It is written in the form of four small stories, based at different times throughout the entire Divergent story. Then at the end there are little bits of information that she felt important to put in there. It doesn't flow in any way, so if you were hoping for a story like the other Divergent books, then you will be disappointed. However, if you go into it thinking that you just want a nice round up of the story and answers to the many questions that the series leaves you with - you will get what you want from this book. It’s so nice to finally get what you want as a reader - this book is basically like a personal discussion with the writer about the story! I have always wanted to know more about Four as a person, what is in his mind. It was easy to read but I got through it way too fast! I know this goes without saying, but please don't pick up and read this book unless you have read and love the series, because you will be very lost! All in all, a great book and perfect and unexpected completion of a brilliant series.


A Northern Light


by Jennifer Donnelly

 

I truly believe that this book belongs among the all-time greats. To understand the magic of this book, you have to appreciate writing and/or reading. Not just appreciate, but truly love and enjoy them. Or at least, have the passion to want to love them! The leading lady, Mattie, is an enormously fascinating character - she is kind and caring and warm, but she is also extremely smart to the point of alienating herself from her simple town. Her determination clashes with her caring nature, and you really feel deeply for her in such a difficult moral situation. I feel as though I know her, as though she is someone that I might have been, which for me is quite rare with characters. I could see her world, I could see everyone around her. It was a strange book for me because I found that unlike other YA books I have recently read, I didn't get overwhelmingly hooked, to the point where I couldn't put it down. I easily let it go and joined my own life again, then would casually pick it back up and carry on. I think it was because it’s quite slow, but for me, that adds to the realistic feel of the book. After all, we don't have a crazy go-go-go life all of the time, and even if you are going through something, it doesn't run past you like a whirlwind - you have to put up with the times in between. I loved that the chapters were based on her 'word of the day' game - and that the writer managed to carry on with the 'word of the day' theme throughout the book - I found that very clever. The main storyline and the thing that inspired the book for the writer, about the body found in the lake, was actually a small part of the story for me and probably something that wasn't even needed for me to love it. The life of Mattie would have been enough for me, but the true story of Grace - the lady found in the lake - was an interesting addition. The only negative would be that the ending was a little confusing and rushed. But all in all I think this is an exceptional book - but unlike most exceptional books, it was easy to read and offered up to young adults!


Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children


by Ransom Riggs

 

BRILLIANT. ADDICTIVE. INTENSE. INTERESTING. PECULIAR! Miss Peregrine has quickly soared up the list to be one of my favourite books of all time. Furthermore, Ransom Riggs (although he has one of the strangest pen names I have ever heard - that's assuming that it is a pen name and his parents aren’t as peculiar as the children in the book...) is now one of my favourite writers. Luckily for me, this is his first book, so we have so much more to see of Mr Riggs! I love the way he uses these fascinating old photographs to aid the story - I have never seen anything like it and it makes the book so much more real and fun and brings a creepy and eerie element to it all. If you like whimsical storylines, history, time travel, photographs, young adult books - or are even simply interested in something that is beautifully different to anything else you will ever read - pick up this book and lock yourself away for a while. You won't be disappointed!

Nobody's Princess


by Esther M. Friesner

 

This is another great young adult book. It was easy to read and it gives a great picture of a fascinating time in history. It also gives a different perspective of a historical figure that we think we know – Helen of Troy. I did think that this version of Helen was bratty and annoying as a character - but to be honest, that made her more believable. If you were a Spartan princess brought up to be a Queen - wouldn't you be a little bratty too? I didn't think it changed my positive opinion of the book or how I related to Helen, like many reviewers have said it did. It is the first in a series, but I didn’t feel the push that I usually feel in a series of books, to make me go out and read the next one. That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book, I really did, but I felt that I could let it go afterwards and didn’t feel that I needed to know what’s going to happen.  If you are interested in this time period, give this book a go. It's not going on my favourite of all time book list, but it’s a nice one to have on your shelf! Plus, I read it in like two days because it is that kind of book – so it won’t take up much of your time!


The Fault In Our Stars


By John Green

 

I love this book. Love it. Love it! I have never seen a subject like this being spoken about in this way. Cancer patients tend to be seen as supreme beings – especially children – and rightly so. They go through an unimaginable life and deserve to be felt for. But I find it interesting how the brilliant characters in this book are so real and speak about the whole ‘immortality’ that they are given in the way that I would see it if I were to be unlucky enough to wear their shoes– as cynically and sarcastically as anything else that is too over the top. I love how it is so real and so true to life and human nature. But, my favourite thing about this book is the characters. The protagonist is so relatable, interesting, funny, cynical and smart. Gus, her quirky love interest, is one of my favourite characters ever written – and that says an awful lot. I just fell in love with him! What a personality, and their relationship is so pure and genuine and they just GET each other. The whole story is from the other side – we always see cancer from the loved ones point of view – how it effects lives, how it hurts everyone around them, how you lose people because of it, how awful it is to see someone you love go through it, how you can make it better for them, how you deal with it, and everything else that goes along with the horrible situation. But this is about the person. It’s about the patient dealing with everything that changes around them socially, having to not only cope with the horrible consequences of having cancer, but also having to deal with everyone around them fussing and treating them like divine martyrs when they just feel the same as they did before – but sicker. I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. Everyone should read it – teenagers, kids, adults, even the elderly. Everyone can benefit from the morals of it, but the love story is something that rivals Romeo and Juliet – and should go down in history as doing so. Great book. Brilliant.

 


Ruby Red


By Kerstin Gier, (translated by Anthea Bell)

 


This book is another one from my ‘Young Adult research’ list. The more I read in this genre, the more I realise how utterly amazing and versatile it is! I feel like I have uncovered a hidden treasure in the world of adult readers, and Ruby Red is definitely a gem in the treasure box. I loved it! It has history, time travel and a fantastic dollop of awkward family antics. I have to confess though, I was tempted to give up on it at one point. The leading young lady is quite a pain in the bum at the beginning. She is so immature and has nothing interesting to say - and I really found that I hated her voice after a few pages. But I am so glad that I stuck with it - what a fun and interesting story and an intense but utterly realistic family unit that is portrayed in it. There are a lot of rules to this time travel thing, so even though it is generally an incredibly easy read, you do have to keep looking through the pages to remind yourself of what you have already learned. For example, the time frames of things and the names and nicknames of members of the story can easily be forgotten, but you do need to know them to understand some parts later on. I have one suggestion for this book for readers: if you find her a bit of a pain, just keep going. She gets better! Plus you have got two more books after this one for the story to develop so you can easily forget the iffy beginning.  I have just ordered the box set and am looking forward to reading the next in the trilogy when it arrives!




Splintered


by A.G Howard


I loved the idea of this book - how brilliant is the idea of all the crazy details of wonderland mixed with Alice's descendant's being cursed to relive it, it's all very complicated and interesting and you've got to love the imagery. So, I gave it my best shot. I really did. I really don't like saying negative things about books, especially YA books that have a great storyline like this one, but I found it really frustrating to read. I feel like the fact that I am not a teenager anymore might have something to do with it - but I have never had that trouble with a YA book before. It could also be that I didn't really like the protagonist ... I just couldn't relate to her, even though she is the kind of person that I was as a teenager - quirky, skater, colours in her hair etc. It just all felt a little too forced - all of the teenager stuff felt overly stereo-typical and I don't think there is any need for it in modern YA books. Teenagers want to read about exceptional people that blow out of the 'typical teen' personalities. The book got good just before half way, so that spurred me onwards, but then eventually I just gave up. In its favour though, the storyline was so good that even though I couldn't keep reading it because the writing style wasn't my thing, I had to read the last chapter or two to find out how it ends!

 The Alchemist


by Paulo Coelho

 

This has been on my reading list since before I can remember, mainly because everyone that has read it seems to be changed by it. It has always seemed a little too “in depth philosophy” for my taste, so I have struggled to pick it up when I could get through something silly and easy in the same time and feel less confused and thoughtful afterwards. But, I found myself in Chicago at the weekend and I had finished my previous book on the plane over. So, I decided to go to a beautiful and quirky little book store in the trendy boutique area of Bucktown, to look for my next book. I needed a small thin one, because I already had a plan for my next book which was sitting comfortably on my bookshelf at home! Then I remembered The Alchemist, and after searching through the many floors and hidden bookshelves of this labyrinth of a bookshop, I found it on a floor-level shelf, and my time with The Alchemist began.

The thing that hit me initially was how much like a children’s story it is. I realised that I have never really sat down and read a fable before, and I found it quite hard to follow without my attention being taken by something else more interesting going on around me. Everything is explained in a very obvious way, and I found it quite slow – and none of the characters were identifiable to me, but I suppose that has something to do with the fact that I don’t know any of their names. There is ‘the boy’, ‘the Englishman’, ‘the Alchemist’, and so on. I know why he wrote it that way, because it isn’t about the characters – it is about the reader learning a lesson and the characters names are irrelevant. But I think I am so accustomed to reading the general kind of story, with all the rules that go along with it that I found this rather frustrating.

The messages of the story are in abundance. I can’t tell you how many life lessons I counted, and I was pleased to find that the final lesson (no, I will not tell you what it is!) is something that I believe in whole heartedly. However, the lessons are delivered in a way that leaves you not needing to work for anything, not thinking about possibilities in the writing, and not really enjoying the general ‘journey with the writer’ in good literature which I have become so fond of in reading. I also find it difficult to read it with an open mind, because there is so much in there that I feel is a little … far-fetched. I just feel a bit sceptical. I have heard that the book has changed many lives, which is amazing, but for me – the themes and lessons are falling on converted ears, but the way that they are told seems to take them needlessly too far.

I suppose that people can take what they want from the book, and I personally try to overlook the religious and social aspects that I find hard to swallow, and take the fact that it can relate to anyone who is trying to find out what they were put on the earth to do. I have recently been through my time of self-discovery and come out of it knowing what I want – maybe that’s why I didn’t appreciate The Alchemist as much as I might have if I would have picked up the book a few years ago. Maybe, then, someone needs to be in a particular place in his/her life when he/she picks this book up.

But please don’t let me put you off, I think it is the kind of book that would be taken differently by different readers, so have a read and find out for yourself – let me know what you think! One thing I will say though is please don’t let the setting and the obvious religion in the story cast judgement – look through that. Otherwise you might concentrate on that and miss the whole thing.


The Notebook


by Nicholas Sparks

 


I absolutely love The Notebook movie. I must have seen it at least thirty times, and it even played a part in my husband’s wedding proposal – he knows how much I love it! So, as you can imagine, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t actually read the book that it is based on. It has been on my reading list for a very long time, but other books have always dominated my choice. However, after visiting a friend and not being prepared when I finished the book I was reading, I was given The Notebook to borrow and read. I am so thankful to my friend, it is such an easy book to read and so lovely – and surprisingly different to the movie. In the movie, the character of Noah was cheeky, confident and argumentative. He seems to be the complete opposite in the book, and actually is one of my favourite literary characters to date. I absolutely fell in love with him and his world – and found it amazing that a city girl like me could dream of the deep depths of the American south, but Sparks made it happen!

The descriptions of passion and emotion and love and anxiety and desperation and attraction and a love that never dies – are sublime. It is over too quickly, and the ending leaves you wanting more, but I would recommend this incredibly highly to anyone who has been, is, or wants to be in love – anyone who loves a good southern story, or even anyone who just wants something nice and easy to read that will make them feel good about life at the same time as crying their eyes out. Great read!


The Taxidermist’s Daughter


by Kate Mosse

 

I can’t convey in words the utter and unequivocal excitement that I felt when it was announced that Kate Mosse was due to publish a new book. It was perfect timing for me too, because it just so happened that it was due to be released just after I got back to normality after my wedding and honeymoon extravaganza – a time that I knew I would definitely be needing something to take my mind off the post-bridal blues.  Her writing always casts a spell on me, and the famous trilogy are by far my favourite books of all time.

So, when it came in the mail (pre-ordered, of course!) I couldn’t have been happier. The book is quite different to her usual writing – it is a dark thriller set in a little village in 1912. The characters are classic Kate Mosse characters, you really understand them and imagine them as real people without having to try very hard. She paints a wonderful picture of the countryside – I could almost taste the salty air and felt completely taken over by it all. There are some things that made me look up from the book though: the whole Taxidermy thing – she tries to make it magical and beautiful and the descriptions of the emotions that go into it are lovely, but the graphic nature of the deed itself and how it is described makes me feel a little sick to the stomach. I feel that I would have got a lot more from the book if I would have been able to see the act of Taxidermy as the character does – but I just didn’t get that because of the dominating image of blood and flesh and rotting skin. I mean, who in their right mind would find a description like that beautiful? The other thing that bothered me a little was the bird imagery. I felt it was slightly overused and it reminded me of an Alfred Hitchcock movie – don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about that, but I just felt there were way too many birds in this village!!

I liked the way that the ending was a mixture between what I had predicted, and something completely surprising – I won’t tell you anything about that obviously, but it is structured really well and I enjoyed the ending.

So, to sum up, I really loved it – but it was a little bit slow to take off, which in her other books is fine because they are so complex, but in this one it makes things a little difficult when trying to pay attention. It doesn’t have the levels of storylines that her other books have (if you are a Kate Mosse fan you will know what I mean), but it is a good read and I would recommend it. I would have to say though, that it doesn’t even come close to measuring up to the trilogy in terms of fantastically profound storytelling.


The Help


by Kathryn Stockett

I don't do this very often but I actually read this book because I liked the movie. I saw it years ago when it first came out and liked it, in a nice but not overly memorable kind of way. When I saw this on the shelf I couldn't remember what happened in the movie - I remembered the basics of the storyline and general themes. I would recommend doing it this way to anyone because I enjoyed the book so much. From the first page it captured me...I am literally in love with it and its characters. It is written in the voice of several different characters so you really get a big picture of what's going on and everyones perspective on it. It might have been good to hear from some of the trickier characters like Hilly, but I understand why we didn't ... if you just see her actions through the eyes of people around her you can make up your own mind about her.
Its such a baffling subject matter, I still can't believe that it was in my parents lifetime that this kind of racism went on, it is appalling. However, it is written so delicately and cleverly so that despite the horrible subject, it is actually an uplifting and exciting book - you get angry, you get sad, you get thrilled and you experience all of these feelings along with the characters - it becomes a part of you. Brilliant book, fantastically optimistic and realistic ending and a surprisingly easy read. Couldn't speak highly enough of it!!

The Declaration

by Gemma Malley


Another one for my young adult education - this is a futuristic book that touches on interesting flaws in our world. Okay, so this was a strange one for me. I never do this, but I am going to give you a list:

Loved:
- The idea behind it: It actually had me talking about it several times to friends, and a lot of it is so relevant to issues that we face. It is a futuristic book, and you can really see it happening in our future because the 'how we got there' part is worked out so well. It looks at some of the big things that I believe that we need to work on in our world
- An easy read: I read it very quickly, the characters were easy to follow and it took a very complex plot and made it readable for anyone.
Didn't love:
- The repetitiveness: There should be only so many times you can write a particular word in a book and many got more than overused in this one. You will find yourself saying "surplus" in your sleep. But to the books defence, it helps the reader to understand how brainwashed the character is.
- Predictability: I knew what was going to happen at every stage of the book. There were one or two surprises, but you were warned about them before hand so it made them less shocking when they actually became part of the story.
- The main character: Anna is slightly annoying. I know the reasons behind her personality traits, but it didn't make it any less frustrating seeing most of the story through her eyes.

So mixed feelings about this book, but generally I do think it is worth a read for anyone that enjoys these kind of books - it isn't as good as The Hunger Games or Divergent, but I am not ruling out reading the next one in the series at some point.



Journey to the River Sea

 

by Eva Ibbotson



So this is a wonderful addition to my collection of read young adult books that I have ticked off in the hopes of learning something about the genre. This is a good old fashioned piece of writing - what a wonderful book! Even though it is a young adult book, you can tell that an older woman wrote it. The use of the word "one" kind of gives that away. But it honestly doesn't make me relate any less with it. I chose it because at the time of browsing the bookshop, I had just found out that there is a possibility that I could be moving to the jungle for a few years. The reviews say that Eva Ibbotson captures the magic of the jungle - I thought that I could do with a bit of that. It completely surpassed my expectations - I have just finished reading it and I still feel my heart skipping - and I now can't think of anything better than going to the jungle and going on adventures like the girl in the story. The characters are brilliant, the descriptions are faultless - honestly I can't find a single fault with this book. Please read it - it deserves to be read for years to come. Truly wonderful, magical and brilliant! You have to read it!

Twilight

By Stephenie Meyer

 

There seems to be a bit of a theme running through my Book Talk, with “everyone has read them” kind of books. I love reading, but I am an incredibly slow reader. Not quite as slow as some people that I know – not naming any names – but still, too slow to catch up with what I call the trend readers. Trend readers are the kind of people that will buy a book because of hype, camping outside the book shop so that they will get the first copy, then read it in one hour so that they can feel like one of first people to ever have read the book. I think that these people are wonderful and I love to see that much passion where reading is concerned, especially as I am an inspiring writer - but I could never be one. My slow reading curse is one of the reasons, but I also get more pleasure from a rare find – the pearl in the bookshops oyster. When I read a book that people just walk past without noticing, and find that it is brilliant – that’s what does it for me. So, most of the big book stars in the modern day literary world have not yet made their way into my life and my bookshelf.

As you will know if you have read my other posts in Book Talk, I am currently writing a young adult novel, so for research, I am reading as many successful young adult books as I can. This research wouldn’t be valid if I didn’t at some point pick up at least one of the Twilight books. A while back, before the majority of the YA bookshelves were taken up with vampire love stories, came this massive trend setter that blew the YA world away. What I loved about the way that the book was written was the main character, Bella, and her ability to pull off huge words – there are some words in there that would in no way sound right coming out of a normal teenager’s mouth. But it seems to add more to Bella’s character, showing that she is smart and enough of an outcast to use interesting vocab and not bother with slang. I love that about her. I wish I knew those kinds of words when I was in school, it would have made me much more interesting.

I have seen some of the Twilight movies and I know the gist of the storyline. I feel as though I know the characters quite well from seeing them on screen. However, what I found when reading the book was a whole new level of teenage romance and infatuation that just wasn’t possible in the movies. The story is told from the point of view of Bella, the easy going teenage girl that has been relocated from a beautiful sunny city to a tiny town where it rains a lot. She becomes completely and overwhelmingly in love with a boy. Lets set the whole vampire issue to one side for a moment and concentrate on the base of the book – the love story. Maybe I would have thought differently when I was a teenager, and don’t get me wrong, I remember my first love infatuation like it was yesterday, but I found her obsession quite frustrating. But, what I found more frustrating was his character. Edward, the boy that she falls for, pushes her away and tells her that he is not good for her, to the point of being angry at her for loving him, but yet he continues to date her and lead her on. He says that he is not strong enough to stay away from her because he loves her, but then he gets angry that he is putting her in harm’s way. He also makes a huge deal about her being so fragile and helpless, that she needs him around to save her all of the time, but she did fine by herself before she came to this small town and met him. In fact, she was the one that was taking care of her mother and herself every day. It seems that the only reason that he loves her is because he wants to be her protector and because she seems to be the only person that he has met so far in his long life that he can’t read the mind of. He must be thinking that it would be horrible to be in a relationship with someone when he can read their thoughts, so if he wants to be with someone, she is pretty much his only choice. He is also intrigued by her because he can’t read her – he can’t figure her out. I can imagine all of these things in the minds of many boys – but Edward has been a teenager for over ninety years, you would think that he would know better by now!  It all seems to be a little test or game for him, and she just seems to lose all of her dignity and common sense and self-control. So, basically, it is just like far too many relationships that I have seen around me, and indeed, experienced myself. It is real and honest and frighteningly relatable. Well, apart from the vampire aspect of it, but that part all seems to be the theme – not the root of the story.

My main point here has already been made in the outburst that you have just read. It evokes reactions and puts the reader in Bella’s mind as she goes through something that we all go through – a first love. It clearly shows that indestructible emotion that you feel, so strong and self-destructive, when you can’t imagine having a future without this person, and not even wanting one if it came to it. You put everything of yourself into your first love because you don’t know any better – but it makes you and the relationship so fragile and intense because you have nothing of yourself left in it. Add a vampire into the mix and you have got yourself one hell of an emotional teen book.


Divergent

By Veronica Roth

 

Wow. What a book. OK, so I had a conversation with my friend just over a week ago about the upcoming release date of the movie Divergent. We agreed that we would read the book before going to see the movie, which we plan to do tomorrow evening. She, being an incredibly fast reader, read it in a day. You can probably tell by the photo that it is not a small book so I was pretty impressed by her, but also a little left behind because I hadn’t even started reading it yet! She said that once you start to read it, you can’t really stop. So, I began. It got me hooked straight away and when I wasn’t reading it, I was thinking about it or talking about it, and I found that I was even dreaming about it when I could actually get to sleep! I got caught up in the world – taking tests to see what faction I would be in, figuring out in my mind how the character gets her strength, finding the relationships between characters interesting and suffering the circumstances along with them.

I can’t tell you much about the storyline because I don’t want to ruin it for you, but it is set in a future USA city. It centres around the political and cultural issues that have developed overtime and much like other young adult series that are set in the future, you follow a young person who is right in the middle of it for reasons that become clearer as the time goes on. The cultural set up of the city is based around 5 factions, each one centres on its own personality trait that becomes the heart and soul of how they live. For example, the faction that the lead character is from is called Abnegation, and focusses on selflessness as the ruling quality of their members. When you turn 16, you are tested to see which faction you belong in based on your personality. That resulting faction might not be the one that you grew up in, and you get to choose in the end which faction you would like to join. As you can imagine, leaving a faction that you have grown up in is a big deal – leaving your family and friends is bad enough, but you would also be leaving your old way of life and beliefs behind.

Beatrice, or Tris, is nothing like the kind of person that I personally can relate to – she is brave and rebellious and she is so strong. All I could think about throughout the whole thing was what on earth I would do in this situation, what choices I would make and how different the outcome would be. It takes a very talented writer to keep a reader who cannot relate to the character interested and addicted to the book in the way that I was.

As I expected, I did compare it to the Hunger Games trilogy, purely for the subject matter, the I faction idea, and the fact that it sets out a terrifying potential future for our world. It was very sophisticated for a young adult genre, and has given me confidence to push the boundaries with my own young adult book – so Veronica Roth, I thank you for that!

I found the faction names hard to remember, so I made a little list of them and held it in my hand for reference until I got the hang of it – they are a huge part of the story so you would lose a lot if you don’t make an effort to memorise the names!

All in all, a fantastic book. I look forward to watching the movie tomorrow evening, and I really look forward to getting the second book in the mail because I have been waiting for it for more time than I can handle!


The Mistletoe Bride, by Kate Mosse

 

Kate Mosse is a wonderful writer. As soon as she brings a book out, it will never be too long before I am sitting all snug with a blanket and a glass of wine, a hardback version of the book spread gracefully across my knee, with its flowing pages basking in my adoration like a Greek goddess.

The Mistletoe Bride and other Haunting Tales is a collection of short stories, which I actually read a lot of generally but I don’t really know anyone else that is accustomed to doing so. I know that when I write short stories and get family members to read them, they have a hard time with it ending so quickly – being such devout full length novel readers. Personally I find it refreshing to be able to put a story down and know it has finished each time – maybe it is due to my overactive imagination but I find it hard to get to sleep if I am in the middle of reading a good long book.

There is a mix of stories in Mistletoe Bride, some are better than others but they’ll all grab you in one way or another. I love her writing because she gets to the heart and soul of history, culture and landscape and most of these stories follow along that path. For those of you who don’t know, she is the author of Labyrinth, Sepulchre and Citadel – a trilogy that I would whole heartedly recommend to anyone as a life changing read.

I have a few favourite stories in the book, Mistletoe Bride (the first story and of course, the story that the book is named after) is a beautiful story, as are The Yellow Scarf (the last story in the book and based on the same themes) and Red Letter Day (which reminds me a little of the trilogy that she is famous for). Many of the stories are based on myths and legends which interest me greatly, I love fictional historical writing about things that could have been; I enjoy the idea that you would find it hard to prove that it definitely wasn’t true. It brings a kind of magic to the story and a wonderful mystery element.

All in all, I felt that it was a wonderful companion in all of this horrible snow and ice and I am so sad that it is over. I am waiting for the next book now, THE TAXIDERMIST'S DAUGHTER – due to be published in September, which is perfect for me because I will be on a downer after the wedding and honeymoon excitement in July/August, so it gives me something wonderful to look forward to!



Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl Written by Herself

By Harriet Ann Jacobs

 

I found this book one day during some classic writing procrastination. I was sorting through my kindle (alas, I have a kindle – my love of physical books is not very practical for my increasingly mobile international lifestyle) and I decided to sift through the free kindle books on offer. You never know what you will find, there is always a gem waiting to be read for free! Then, this caught my eye. As you will know if you have read my review of 12 Years a Slave, I am deeply intrigued but understandably horrified about this area in history. I read in the reviews that it is a true story, and it is the writers own account of her experience in slavery. So, I downloaded it and read it very quickly, which is unusual for me. I just got swept up in her story and I just couldn’t believe what I was reading.

This book is very real, hard to read and very personal – the language, considering that it is quite old, isn’t too difficult but the storyline doesn’t make it easy for the reader to keep on track. She does tend to dot around all over the place and the timeline is always a bit of guesswork, but can you blame her? She went through all of this herself, terrible, unimaginable things - I am more than happy to allow her to write her story how she wants to – and I feel privileged to be able to read it.

It mentions at the beginning that she is writing this to show others what the slave trade does to people and she mentions how hard it is for her to tell her story. I can’t imagine some of the things that she survived and half way through the book I looked up at my fiancé and said in all honesty that at this stage, I would have given up. Where these brave people that were ripped from their homes and made into working objects got their strength from, I will never know. I just know the huge amount of respect that I have for them and for Harriet for telling her story (which she tells under the pseudonym Linda Brent).

I think that one of the most difficult things to understand is her opinion on the happenings around her throughout the story. Her reaction to things that we would consider unlawful and against basic human rights in the book, was as though she found it all quite normal. She was born and had grown up a slave – it was all she knew. I suppose that the way they dealt with it was to see it this way, anger or resentment would achieve nothing but it would escalate the bad things. Even so, it is so hard to read her response to something that is so outrageously wrong, because it comes from a world where the law says that it is not wrong. It comes from a time and place where the law will only protect selected human beings.

It is a meaningful story and it will give you an inside look – but just be ready for the reality of it because it will leave you feeling very frustrated. I know that it is a hard book to read with the way that it is written, but it is important that you read it to the end – it isn’t a very long book and it will teach you so much more if you see it through.



Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s / Sorcerer’s Stone

By J.K Rowling

 

I know what you are thinking. What an earth am I doing reviewing Harry Potter, when there probably isn’t a single person in the world that hasn’t heard of it? Well, I have never been one to do what everyone else does and to that end, I have never read the Harry Potter books. There, I said it. I know that I might have just admitted to committing some sort of literary crime, but there you have it.

The thing is though, I am currently writing a young adult novel and when I began chapter one I realised that I had not read a young adult novel since…well since I was a young adult. I used to love them, but since I burst through the teenage years I have been reading books that are a little more grown up. So, I set myself the task of reading as many as possible as research for my writing. I knew that the Harry Potter books would be a wonderful starting point for me, and knowing the J.K Rowling story of going from having very little to being a worldwide sensation (which is, of course, what is going to happen to me eventually…) I broke my unconformity pact and began the first book.

What struck me as strange was that the book is called two different things in the UK and the US, for no apparent reason. Why use the word ‘Sorcerer’ in the US and the word ‘Philosopher’ in the UK? J.K Rowling must have employed a cultural editor on crazy juice, because a lot of the words in the book have been changed to words that you would use in the US. Things like ‘trash can lids’, and, ‘candy’. It is so strange picturing in your head British characters that speak with American words. I guess it must have had to be like that because it is a children’s book and we can’t expect them to know the differences in words yet. It does make me laugh, though, writing my own book. Every time I write something that would be said differently in the US, I wonder how different it would look in a US book than a UK one.

There are not many differences to the movie in terms of the storyline, there are a few things that have been changed – and again I can’t fathom a logical reason for the changes made by the director of the movies. The character of Harry himself I find to be a little more cheeky and ballsy than in the movies, where he is really polite and posh. I suppose the movie knew that it was going to a worldwide audience and they wanted to make Harry as typically British as possible. J.K Rowling had no idea what fame she was going to achieve with the books – it must have been amazing.

Anyway, I am ready for the next book now – they are definitely serving their purpose in terms of learning and research. I have completely restructured my book with what I have already learned, so thanks Harry Potter!