Friday 30 December 2016

Reviewing the Classics #7 A Christmas Carol

                                                                                  Goodreads Summary:

Ebenezer Scrooge is a lonely, miserly old man who hates Christmas, which he dismisses as "humbug". One Christmas Eve, however, he is visited by a series of ghosts who reveal to him the innocence he has lost, the wretchedness of his future and the poverty of the present; which he has so far ignored. This experience teaches Scrooge the true meaning of the holiday and leaves him a transformed man.

With its memorable cast of characters such as Scrooge, Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol is the most heart-warming of seasonal tales, a timeless classic that continues to enchant readers around the world and a lesson in charity and hopefulness that is as powerful today as when it was first written in 1843 .                                        

So I have to admit that I am cheating slightly here, as I have read this months classic several times before, but as it is Christmas, I think I can be excused just this once! I have a Christmas tradition where every year, I read this book aloud to my dad. He doesn't really read himself, but he adores all of the A Christmas Carol movie adaptations, and the novel has now become his favourite book! As my copy was looking a little dog eared, I was delighted when the lovely Alma Books sent me a brand new copy with a gorgeous cover! I was happy to discover that the book also included other festive stories by Charles Dickens that I had never read before, but for the sake of the length of this review, I am going to stick to only reviewing A Christmas Carol.

A Christmas Carol is probably one of the most well known classics in the world. Everyone has heard of Scrooge, with the name often used to describe a cruel and selfish person. There are several movie adaptations, with my favourite being A Muppets Christmas Carol, but I do often wonder how many people have actually taken the time to read this festive classic. It is a short book that can easily be read in one sitting, and although I read multiple Christmas books every year, I always find myself coming back to this one. As we all know, the main theme that runs throughout this book is to treat others with kindness, and to spend with with friends and family over the holidays. I feel as if we tend to forget to do this in modern day life, and people are a lot more solitary than they used to be. We are all so focused on our own problems, that we have no time to be friendly to strangers, so I love how this book shows what a huge difference a random act of kindness can make.

Something that inevitably happens when reading a classic is coming across archaic language. Language is constantly changing, and there are many references that the average person living in 2016 wont understand. I loved how this edition took this into consideration, and in most cases where I didn't understand something, I could flick to the back of the book where it would be explained. I love when classic books do this, and I feel as if this should be done in all classics.

I have always adored the characters in this book, especially the Cratchet family. The love that this family has for each other is heart warming, and Dickens perfectly shows the grief that they feel over Tiny Tim's death.

I feel as if this book will remain a classic for many years to come, as even over one hundred years later, it remains relatable, and shows us the true meaning of Christmas. I will definitely be keeping up my annual tradition, and I look forward to rereading this book for years to come!

A Christmas Carol is now available to purchase!

 Alma Classics  | Amazon Book Depository 

Monday 26 December 2016

Review on What Light

For as long as she can remember, Sierra has lived a double life. For most of the year, Sierra lives at her parents Christmas tree farm in Oregon. However, every December they move to California, where they sell their trees. Although Sierra's friend Heather wants her to have a holiday romance, Sierra is determined not to get involved with anyone. That is until she meets Caleb, a boy who spends his money on buying Christmas trees for families who can't afford them. Sierra soon develops feelings for Caleb, and with the uncertainty of if she will return next year, Sierra must decide if getting involved in Caleb is the best decision.

I was excited to receive this book from the lovely people at MyKindaBook, and decided to wait until the festive period to read it! What Light follows Sierra, a girl who lives on a Christmas tree farm in Oregon, but has to move to California every year during December to help her families to sell the trees. I thought the plot seemed cute, and I love reading happy, lighthearted books at this time of year. Sierra soon meets Caleb,a boy who initially seems sweet, but has a dark past. Sierra hears a rumour that Caleb attacked his sister with a knife, but isn't sure how much of the rumour is true. I felt as if Sierra should have got to know Caleb a little more before trusting him enough to be alone with him. I felt as if Jeremiah, Caleb's best friend, had a more realistic reaction to him, as he initially kept a little distance between himself and Caleb.

Sadly I did not fall in love with these characters like I hoped I would. I found them to be a little dull and cliché, and we don't discover much about their personalities. We don't really learn anything about Sierra other than the fact that she lives on a Christmas tree farm, and although the book is quite short, I was hoping for characters with more individuality. I didn't care about Sierra enough to become invested in her story, and her relationship with Caleb just seemed like your average cliché YA romance. This is very much a love at first sight story, and as I've mentioned probably hundreds of times before, I hate instalove. As Sierra is only in town during the festive season, their relationship develops extremely quickly, and I felt like rolling my eyes at certain parts. Their relationship turned into a huge cliché, and as I had heard nothing but good things about Jay Asher, I was disappointed.

Sierra has a solid group of friends, which include Heather, her friend in California, and Elizabeth and Rachel, her friends back home in Oregon. I always adore strong friendships in YA contemporary novels, and it was clear that all of Sierra's friends had a strong bond with her. Because of this, I was annoyed when Sierra chose spending time with Caleb over going to see Rachel perform in a play. I felt bad for Rachel, as Sierra chose a boy she had only just met over her best friend. I often feel as if friendships are more permanent than romantic relationships, and as Sierra had known Caleb for such a short amount of time, I was overall annoyed that she chose Caleb over Rachel.

I felt as if Jeremiah, Caleb's best friend, had more potential as a character than what he was given. I was hoping that he would become a good friend to Sierra, and provided us with more backstory on Caleb, but unfortunately that never happened. To me it felt like Jeremiah was more of a plot device than a character, and I was hoping that he would become more central to the plot than he was.

My expectations for this book were pretty high, and sadly I have to say that it did not meet my expectations. This book was a cheesy, contemporary cliché romance, with forgettable characters, and the type of romance that has been done thousands of times. Although the idea of this book was cute, I felt as if it failed to deliver.

What Light is now available to purchase!

Friday 16 December 2016

Review on Mrs Miller-Christmas Killer

When Holly Glover transfers schools in December, she is surprised that she can't see a single Christmas decoration. However, it doesn't take long for her to discover the reason. Holly's head teacher, Mrs Miller, despises Christmas, and won't tolerate any festivity. When Mrs Miller leaves the school to attend a conference, Holly decides to give Mount Pleasant primary school the Christmas they have always wanted.

 When I got send a request to review this book, the title immediately caught my attention. However, one of the first things I do before reading the summary is look at the cover, and my first assumption was that it was going to be a sexy book! Although the cover does make sense in context, I felt as if no one would look at the cover and assume it was a children's book, so I felt as if it was a little misleading.

The book follows Holly, a girl in year six who has just changed schools. I loved the setting of this book, as I don't come across many books that are set in a school in Britain. Holly was a likeable protagonist, and although I found her dads antics with his tanning van funny, I also felt second hand embarrassment for Holly. Holly's days just keep getting worse, and the only thing she has to look forward to is her schools talent show. I loved how although everything was going wrong for her, Holly never gave up on her goals, and finally achieved what she wanted.

One thing that I loved about this book was Holly's family. Whenever we think about family, we usually picture a child living with their mum and dad. However, Holly's mother has died, and she lives with her gran and her dad. There are many children who have families similar to Holly's, so I loved that Holly's family was different to what we are used to. Families come in many different forms, no matter if it's a child being brought up by a single parent, or a child living with gay parents. I loved that this book helped to show that although Holly's family didn't involve a mother, her family still loved her and cared for her adequately.

Something that made me a little uncomfortable was the way Mrs Miller's Stop Christmas At Mount Pleasant (S.C.A.M.P) group were treated. Mrs Miller gives a task to three of the children to report back to her if they discover anyone celebrating Christmas. Once Mrs Miller leaves the school and the teachers start organising the talent show, they make sure that S.C.A.M.P are out of the way every day by giving them unpleasant chores to do, such as cleaning the bathroom and picking up litter, much to the delight of the rest of the students. There is no other word for what this was but bullying. From what I could see, these children had not volunteered themselves to be a part of S.C.A.M.P, and although Crystal was unpleasant, I could not see anything that the other two children had done to deserve such treatment. I felt as if this could potentially be harmful to young readers, and could lead them to believe that this behaviour is acceptable.

I was quite shocked by the ending of the book, as I didn't expect it to take such a dark turn. However, I did love how Mrs Miller had a genuine reason to hate Christmas, and she had a satisfactory redemption. However, I felt as if it was a little unnecessary and random for Mrs Miller to marry Holly's dad. I felt as if it was a little too far fetched, and made it seem as if Holly's family actually did need a mother figure after all. I was disappointed in this, as I felt as if it undermined the idea of a family being functional and happy without a mother figure.

Although I did have a few issues with this book, I did enjoy it overall and loved the positive character development. It felt a little similar to one of my favourite Christmas books, A Christmas Carol, and it was a quick and fun read that I easily managed to finish in a day.

Mrs Miller-Christmas Killer  is now available to purchase!

Monday 28 November 2016

GUEST POST: What is Your Book About? - Kaitlyn S.C Hatch

Today I bring you a guest post from Kaitlyn S.C Hatch, author of Friends We Haven't Met

I’ve been a writer since I can remember, or, as I like to say, since before I could spell. Writing, to me, is like breathing. It’s necessary, essential, and I do it regardless of what else might be going on.

But going from simply writing a book to actually publishing it and sharing it with the world, is entirely different. When something we’ve written is put out there, it means we’re going to get asked questions. Of course, being asked questions is not a bad thing. Questions are incredibly valuable. They remind us to keep learning, they keep minds open, and an excellent question will lead to more questions.

I get asked questions about my method and how long it took to write my latest published book or where I got the idea for it, and most of them I’m totally prepared to respond to. But one question, the question I get asked most often, continues to stump and baffle me:
What is your book about?

You’d think this would be easy to answer, right? I wrote it. I came up with the characters and the plot, developed the tension, re-wrote chunks, edited it. I know it inside and out. It is my creation. How could I struggle to say what it’s about?

The thing about creativity is it does not happen in a vacuum. I love the way Elizabeth Gilbert describes it:
“… it's a collaboration between a human being's labours and the mysteries of inspiration. And that's the most interesting dance that I think you can be involved in. But you are very much an agent in that story. You're not just a passive receptacle. And also, it's not entirely in your hands.”

Part of being an agent for creativity, of creating anything, is that it changes once it is shared. Art, science, writing, film, performance — so much of what these things are or what they have become is as a result of the audiences, from the way it was experienced and understood by others.

It makes me think back to an experience I had in an English class when I was fourteen. We were studying The Raven and the teacher was going on about what Edgar Allan Poe meant with this line or that word or what he was trying to say. I put up my hand and asked where she was referencing this from. Where was Edgar Allen Poe’s book titled ‘What I Meant When I Wrote the Raven’? I was, admittedly, being a contrary teenager, but I’ve come to see the value in such a question as it reminds us that our interpretation is part of what gives meaning to the things we consume. 

So I could say, and often do, that Friends We Haven't Met is about a group of six people living on the same floor of an apartment building in Wimbledon. I could and do tell people, it’s about learning to relate, about understanding each other. I could and do tell people that it’s an invitation for us to see shared emotional experience, regardless of our very different embodiment's and identities. Or I explain it in the most clinical sense as a character based narrative of contemporary fiction. And it is all those things. But it will also be about something else to each person who reads it. In one of the reviews published about Friends We Haven't Met, the reviewer said they found it confusing because the characters aren’t named for the first few chapters, but once they were named, they found it much easier. Another reader said she absolutely loved how the characters weren’t named in the first few chapters because it forced her to get to know them by their emotional landscape, their internal dialogues and thoughts. It made her love them more because of it, and she found the book difficult to put down, but she didn’t want it to end either. 

I will say that the latter reflects the intention I had in writing it, but that doesn’t make the former less valid as a description. Initially, yes, the book is about unnamed strangers, even to us, the reader. How we take that is up to us. It could be uncomfortable. It could be confusing. It could just fall flat. Or it could inspire curiosity about the people we meet each day and the trials and tribulations they are going through, the things they are fearful of and what they hope and dream for.

The question: What is your book about? Freezes me in my tracks because I worry my response is either inadequate—it’s about people and relationships—or too complicated and wordy. Sometimes I don’t freeze, and my response is clear and leaves both the questioner and me satisfied. Ultimately, though, I am learning that it is a question that does not and never will have a definitive, singular answer, and that is not a problem.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Kaitlyn for stopping by! You can find out more about Kaitlyn through her website

Friends We Haven't Met is now available to purchase!

Tuesday 22 November 2016

Review on All the Light We Cannot See

Shortly after Marie-Laure turns six, she loses her sight, and her father helps her to navigate the city by building a miniature version of it, which she can explore through touch. However, threats of a second war soon approach, and Marie-Laure must leave her home town of Paris and move in with her Agoraphobic uncle. Meanwhile, a young German boy named Werner I recruited into a Hitler Youth school for his talent at fixing radios. As the war continues, Marie-Laure and Werner's lives will collide in unexpected ways.

This book was meant to be one of our book club reads in September, but as we were extremely busy, most of us never got round to it! However, as it has had a lot of hype, I decided I would read it anyway.

The book follows two separate story lines, which eventually interconnect with each other. Half of the book focuses on Marie-Laure, a blind French girl, who is forced to evacuate Paris during the World War II. The other half focuses on Werner, an orphan German boy who has a talent for fixing radios. Their journeys finally interconnect when Werner finds himself on Marie-Laure's street, where he is tracking radio signals from the enemy.

As someone who doesn't often read adult fiction, I was worried this book was going to be quite monotonous with lengthy chapters. At 530 pages, it is by no means a quick read. However, I was surprised that the chapters were so short, which I felt helped me get through the book a lot faster than I would have with long chapters. However, I did feel as if the plot progressed extremely slowly, and nothing much happened to keep my interest for a good portion of the book. Although I was disappointed that the story lacked action, the book is written beautifully, and the imagery is fantastic. It is clear from this book that Anthony Doerr is a brilliant writer, but unfortunately for me, the plot itself just wasn't interesting enough, and at times I found it difficult to get through this book. Although I almost marked this down as a DNF, I'm glad that I managed to see it out until the end, as the last quarter was by far my favourite.

I adored the characters in this book, especially Werner. I felt as if he went through fantastic character development. Werner was initially cowardly, as when his friend, Frederick, was being abused, he did nothing to stop it. However, he eventually risks everything to save the life of Marie-Laure, which was extremely kind and courageous. Although Frederick was only a minor character, he was my favourite, and I felt as if he was extremely important to Werner's character development. Frederick is extremely brave, and refuses to continue torturing a prisoner, despite knowing he will be severely punished. I adored Fredericks bravery, and how he never blamed Werner for not sticking up for him. He is pure of heart, and I loved how he showed his vulnerable side to Werner, such as his love for birds and the fact that his eyesight was not perfect, and needed glasses. I was heartbroken at what eventually happened to Frederick, and it perfectly showed the harsh reality of terrible things happening to the kindest and least selfish people.

Marie-Laure was an interesting character, and I loved that although she is blind, she is extremely independent and never feels sorry for herself, or seeks sympathy. I loved her strong relationship with her father, and how much they cared for each other. I also loved her relationship with her great uncle Etienne, a man who she has been told is crazy. Etienne was an interesting character, and I loved that although is is agoraphobic and hasn't left his house in years, he forces himself to go outside when he believes that Marie-Laure is in danger. It was nice to see such strong family bonds in a novel that is set during a war.

Throughout the majority of the novel, I was looking forward to Marie-Laure and Werner finally meeting each other. Their lives are connected to each other quite early on in the novel, when Werner and his sister come across a French educational radio broadcast of Marie-Laure's grandfather aimed at children their age. However when they did finally meet, it was extremely short lived and felt unsatisfactory. I did love that it fit in with the theme of nothing being fair in times of war, but at the same time, I wish there had been a little more interaction between the two.

The subplot involving the Sea of Flames diamond was an interesting one, and I honestly had no idea where it was going! It initially felt a little trivial, and an excuse to create some drama in Marie-Laure's storyline. Although the diamond was the catalyst for a number of outcomes, the one that stood out to me involved Werner. It is stated early on in the novel that the diamond is practically priceless, and only the strongest would be able to resist the temptation to take it. The fact that Werner retrieved the model house, but left the diamond behind really showed how far he had come as a character, as he went from not helping his friend to avoid being punished himself, to saving the life of a French girl he had only just met, and resisting taking the diamond.

Although this is not a book I would normally choose to read, I do like to occasionally break out of my comfort zone, and I'm glad that I did that with this book. If you decide to read it, my advice would be not to rush through it, as I did find it quite mentally draining, and it is definitely not a happy book. I thought the ending was quite bittersweet, and I felt as if going forward in time to see what the characters lives were like after the war was a good way to end it. If you enjoy war stories and beautifully written prose, then I recommend this book!

Saturday 12 November 2016

Book Club Picks #5 Our Chemical Hearts

When Grace Town walks into class a couple of weeks into senior year, Henry Page is immediately intrigued. However, it is not her beauty that interests him, but the fact that she wears boys clothes and walks with a cane. Henry is determined to find out this girls story. However, he soon discovers his idea of Grace Town is not who she truly is.

 As this book has been compared to John Green and Rainbow Rowell, I was really hoping I was going to enjoy it! It is told from the point of view of Henry Page, a high school senior who is hoping to become the editor of the school newspaper. However, everything changes when the new girl, Grace Town is appointed as co-editor, but refuses the position. Grace Town is a huge mystery, and Henry is determined to solve her.

I found this book to be quite cliché and similar to other contemporary YA novels that I have read. Although the blurb does compare the book to John Green's work, I did not expect that to mean that a large part of the book is almost identical to Paper Towns. I found the ending to be almost exactly the same as John Green's novel, and it gave the same message that it is often dangerous to fall in love with the idea of a person, rather than with the person themselves. Although it is a good message to send out, it is by no means original, and my overall thought on this book was was that it was a slightly worse version of Paper Towns.

As far as plot is concerned, it felt as if the author had a checklist of things she wanted to include to make the book relatable to a teenage audience, and proceeded to add them in a haphazard way. Although I usually enjoy pop culture references, some of the them seemed a little forced in this book, almost as If the author had spent ten minutes on Tumblr and declared herself the “Meme Queen”

Although I was initially amused at Henry's quirky parents, I found them to be extremely over the top and unrealistic when they decided to randomly dress up as Star Trek characters. I did however love how well his parents got along with each other, so I was disappointed when it was revealed that was not the case. Although it is true that a lot of romantic relationships don't work out, I was disappointed that literally all of the characters relationships didn't work out, as I would have loved for the book to have shown that not all relationships end in heartbreak.

I didn't really become emotionally attached to any of the characters with the slight exception of Grace. I felt as if Grace seemed like the only realistic character, and her grief towards the end of the book seemed raw and real, with real emotion behind it. I hated how Henry ruined this, as although Grace had a genuine reason to show grief, Henry locks himself in his room and listens to Taylor Swift songs, which I felt lessened the impact of the previous scene. I found Henry to be quite selfish, as he seemed to care more about the fact that Grace wasn't in love with him than he cared about what Grace was going through.

I loved the diversity that came in the form of Lola, but I did feel that making her both a person of colour and a lesbian made it seem like all the diversity was packed into one character. I also felt as if making her a lesbian was an excuse for her to be able to hang out with the boys without entering a romantic relationship with them, as for some reason it often seems the case that authors feel as if heterosexual males and females can't possibly have a platonic relationship.

Although Murray was there to be the classic “funny friend” I found him to be a little over the top and occasionally annoying. I didn't really see much of a purpose to him, as all he seemed to do was over exaggerate being Australian, get drunk and cry over his ex girlfriend. Although I do usually like funny characters, I just couldn't get myself to like Murray.

I did think that the book redeemed itself a little towards the end, but unfortunately it was not enough to make me enjoy the book overall. It wasn't original enough for me, and the characters seemed like recycled versions of John Green characters. However, as we often do, the book club members had mixed opinions on this one, and we were split almost evenly between who enjoyed it and who didn't. Although this book was unfortunately not for me, I would still recommend it if you love John Green and contemporary YA is your favourite genre.

I don't usually give half ratings but I would probably rate this one a 2.5

Our Chemical Hearts is now available to purchase!

Monday 31 October 2016

Reviewing the Classics #6 Tales of Horror

                                                                                  Goodreads Summary:

A murderer is forced to reveal his crime by the sound of a beating heart, a mysterious figure wreaks havoc among a party of noblemen during the time of the plague, a grieving lover awakens to find himself clutching a box of his beloved blood-stained teeth, a man is obsessed with the fear of being buried alive – these are only some of the memorable characters and stories included in this volume, which exemplify Poe’s inventiveness and natural talent as a storyteller.

Immensely popular both during and after his lifetime, and a powerful influence on generations of writers and film-makers to this day, Edgar Allan Poe is still counted among the greatest short-story writers of all time and seen as one of the initiators of the detective, horror and science-fiction genres.

As it is spoopy month, I thought it would be the perfect time to read some of the works of Edgar Allan Poe! I first have to mention the gorgeous cover of the copy I got sent by Alma Books! Seriously their classics are my aesthetic and I adore receiving books from them. As I took English Literature at University, I was definitely already a fan of Poe before reading these stories! I loved studying his poems and stories as part of my Literature course, so I was excited to relive some of those, and read some that I hadn't previously read!

I adored going back to some of the stories I have loved for years, along with reading some I hadn't read previously. My favourites included William Wilson, The Tell-Tale Heart, Fall of the House of Usher, The Pit and the Pendulum and Black Cat. One of my favourites that I hadn't previously read was The Premature Burial. Although I have never really been afraid of being buried alive, Poe made this book extremely scary by putting us into the mind of the narrator. I adore Poe's extremely clever way of creating atmosphere and location, and I wish I could do descriptive writing half as well as he could!

I actually preferred the shorter stories, as they were quick and to the point. I felt as if quite a few of the longer stories took a while to get into the actual story, and I was a little bored for the first few pages. However I enjoyed the majority of the stories, and they were perfect to read at night with a candle lit!

I think this collection of Poe's works is perfect for anyone who enjoys horror stories, but doesn't want anything too terrifying. Although some of them were scary, there wasn't many that made me too terrified to sleep! This was the perfect collection of stories to read around Halloween, and it made a nice change to read short stories rather than a novel. I definitely recommend this book!

Friday 21 October 2016

Review on Nirvana #3 Blinded

When Adele Blackburn's mother dies, she is forced to move away from New York, and start a new life with her grandparents in a commune.Addie soon adapts to her new life, and after spending her whole life in a state of poverty, she is delighted by her wealthy grandparents. However, Addie is constantly thinking about why her mother would run away from such a lovely home to live in the city, and she is determined to find out.

As I loved the first two books in the Nirvana series, I was looking forward to reading this one! Although Blinded is the third book in the series, it is actually a prequel to the first two. I was initially a little disappointed when I realised this, as I adored the characters from the first two books, and was hoping the story would return to them. However, I was excited that this book was going to explain how Nirvana, the commune from the first two books, began.

Blinded follows Addie Blackburn, a thirteen year old girl from Bright Lights City. Addie has never met her grandparents, so when her mothers dies and she is forced to move in with them, she has no idea what to expect. Addie has grown up poor, living in a tiny apartment her whole life, so I loved her sense of bewilderment at finding out that her grandparents live in a mansion. Addie is determined to find out why her mother would leave such luxury behind, which leads her to asking her grandmother about it.

I loved the different point of views that switched between Addie and her grandmother, Margaret. As Addie tells us about her life, Margaret tells Addie about her own childhood. I preferred reading Margaret's chapters at first, as Addie's life seemed a little mundane for the first half of the book. I also felt as if the editing was a little messy in Margaret's chapters. Although it was obvious that most of her chapters were purely dialogue,the quotation marks were constantly being opened and closed, which confused me multiple times and lead me to believe that a character inside of Margaret's narration was speaking. Although I am no editor, I felt as if quotations should have only been used when she started the narration, and when she finished.

I found the first half of the book to be a little slow and was even a little bored. A large portion of the first half of the book focuses on boys, wit both Addie and her grandmother experiencing instalove when they are very young. Instalove makes me cringe at the best of times, and although I realise this book is set in the 1800's where girls would marry young, I felt that it was a little too much. Although it was interesting to discover how Addie's grandparents met, I found it a little cringy how Addie seemingly fell in love with Lucas at first sight. I felt as if Addie had bigger problems than boys, and I was much more interested in her grandfather's work and finding out why her mother left.

The second half of the book was a lot more interesting, and I was anticipating how Margaret's story would end. I loved how the plot ended up resembling a mystery novel, and I was eager to find out who Addie's father was. I was a little disappointed that Addie correctly guessed who her father was early on in the book. However, there were still enough unexpected plot twists to keep me happy.

The reason behind why Addie's mother left was extremely shocking, and I was not expecting such a serious topic to come up in this book. As Addie is thirteen, I presumed that the target audience for this book would be young teenagers, so it took me completely by surprise when such an upsetting and triggering topic came up towards the end of the book. Although this book initially seemed more light hearted than the previous two, the last few chapters made me change my mind. 

The thing I was most excited to find out about was the origins of the eye colour surgeries, as I figured there would be a purpose behind them other than for purely cosmetic reasons. I was disappointed when this wasn't the case, and I was just as confused as Addie as to why her grandfather continue to perform the surgeries despite the complications that could arise. As the surgeries are optional at this point, it made me wonder what changed to make them mandatory in the first two books.

Although I did enjoy this book, I have to say that I preferred the first two books in the series. I loved the fast pace of the other books, and they kept me interested from the start. I also loved how the previous books didn't focus too much on romance, and there was no instalove. Unfortunately this book failed to create much suspense, and I think it was definitely the weakest in the series.

Blinded is now available to purchase!

Friday 14 October 2016

Author Q&A with Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie

Today I bring to you a Q&A with Kristy Feltenberger Gillespie, author of the Nirvana Series!

Hi Kristy! Tell us a little about Blinded, your third book in the Nirvana series.

When Addie Blackburn’s mother dies, she has no choice but to board a southbound train to her grandparents’ plantation home. In New York, Addie and her mother settled in a cramped one-bedroom apartment, but in Virginia, her grandparents reside in a mansion. Overnight, Addie goes from surviving like a pauper to living like a princess. 

But as grim as life in New York was, at least it made sense,whereas, in Virginia, Addie is left with a ton of questions: Why did her mother flee the plantation in the first place? Why didn’t Addie ever meet or speak to her grandparents before her mother’s death? Who is her father, and does he live on the plantation? And why is her grandfather obsessed with performing eye-color surgeries?If Addie is to remain at the plantation, she must figure out the answers to these questions, and with all the buried secrets from the past, that won’t be an easy thing to do.

   What made you decide to set this book in the 1800s?

The American Civil War era has always fascinated me and I'm a fan of historical fiction, so I thought it would be interesting to write about that time period. Since Margaret grew up on a plantation where her father was a slave owner and seller, she saw firsthand the injustice between wealthy people and poor slaves, which sparked in her a need to bring some kind of equality to the plantation. I also decided to write Blinded as a prequel, since so many readers were asking why Nirvana was started in the first place.

 Would you ever get surgery to change your eye colour?

No! But I did alternate between aqua, violet, and green colored contacts during high school. I also underwent Lasik eye surgery which was one of the best decisions I've ever made. 

Do you think a commune like Nirvana would work in Western society?

 Yes, I do think it would work, at least at first. Then I think most people would crave the outside world too much to remain. 

Would you be comfortable living in Nirvana, or would you, like some of your characters, try to escape?

 Escape! I love travelling too much to reside in one place for eternity. Plus, as a writer, it's important to have experiences and how much could a person experience within a commune (for eternity)? 

 Which of your characters do you relate to the most? 

I'm a combination of Jade and Peaches. Depending on the circumstances,  I can be introverted, serious, and anxious like Jade, and extroverted, silly, and laid back like Peaches. 

 Do you have a favourite place to write?  

Yes, at my desk in my home office. I write nearly every night  after my 14 month old baby goes to bed. With the help of a few cup of coffee, I'm able to write for two plus hours each night. 

As a fellow book blogger, are there any books you'd like to recommend?  

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, Bone Gap by Laura Ruby,Only Daughter by Anna Snoekstra, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

 I'd like to say a big thank you to Kristy for stopping by and taking the time to answer some questions!

Blinded, the third book in the Nirvana series is available to purchase now! Be sure to also check out the first two books in the series, Jaded and Hunted

Tuesday 4 October 2016

Book Club Picks #4 Cell 7

When sixteen year old Martha Honeydew admits to the murder of local celebrity Jackson Paige, she is immediately arrested and put on Death Row. Martha must spend a week in seven different cells, where her fate will be decided by a public vote. Will Martha be sentenced to death, or will her life be saved by the public?

When I got sent a copy of this book as part of our monthly book club read, I had no idea if I was going to enjoy it or not. It follows Martha, a sixteen year old girl from The Rises, a part of town where the poor reside. Martha is found standing over the body of Jackson Paige, a local celebrity, with a gun in her hand. After admitting that she killed him, Martha is arrested and locked in Cell 1, a series of seven where on the final day, the public decide if she lives or dies. The public are given information on Martha through 'Death is Justice', an extremely biased television show, where the host tries to convince the public that Martha is guilty. The idea of a corrupt government is by far not an original one, as after the huge success of The Hunger Games, dystopian novels were everywhere to the point that I got bored of them. Although I loved the idea of criminals spending just a week behind bars instead of a lifetime, I found the TV show idea to be quite unoriginal, as it just reminded me of Caeser Flickerman's show in The Hunger Games.

The story is told in a unique way, with the narrative constantly changing between tenses, person and point of view. Although I initially found this to be confusing and annoying, I got more used to it as the book progressed. As the majority of Martha's chapters are told in first person, I was extremely confused when a couple of her chapters towards the middle of the book were in third person. I couldn't for the life of me understand why Kerry Drewery did this, and all it did was confuse me further. Overall I think the constantly changing narratives took a little of the enjoyment of the plot away from me.

The plot itself was quite interesting, and I loved how Martha kept going back to explain the lead up to Jackson's murder bit by bit. It gave the story a good amount of tension, and I would have been hooked if some of the plot points hadn't been painfully obvious. There are two big reveals towards the end of the book, both of which I had worked out by the halfway point. As someone who loves plot twists that I didn't see coming, I was disappointed that all my theories turned out to be correct. I did however love how fast paced the novel was in the last quarter, and I was hooked right up until the end. The countdown literally had me on the edge of my seat!

It is clear even in today's society that wealthy people have an advantage in almost everything, so I loved how even though it was up to the public to decide the outcome of the prisoners, they had to pay £5 for each vote. This meant that the rich could vote multiple times, whereas the poor may not have been able to vote at all. I loved seeing the difference in class, with the poor seeing how it was clearly an unfair system, while the rich defended it. As court systems no longer exist in Martha's world, evidence of the crime plays a minimal part in deciding if someone is guilty or not, which has led to a number of innocent people being executed. It was interesting that although evidence existed, it was not made available to the public, and they had to make a decision solely on a corrupt TV show.

The addition of a live-stream from the cells for the public to watch was an interesting idea, but ended up seeming like a boring version of The Hunger Games. I found it strange that there didn't seem to be an audio-feed, and thought it was extremely unrealistic that after finding out Eve didn't think Martha was guilty, she would have been allowed to talk to Martha in her cell with no one listening in on their conversation.

Martha was an interesting and likeable protagonist, and I loved her opinions on the corrupt justice system. I loved that although she is just sixteen, she is trying to make a huge change to the system to make it fair. Although Drewery went down the typical poor orphan girl route, I still enjoyed Martha as a character, and loved watching her come to terms with the murder of her mother.
Eve was one of my favourite characters, and I loved her relationship with Martha. Eve's chapters were some of my favourites, and I loved how she had a terrible personal experience with the justice system, and worked alongside Martha in an attempt at change. Eve was extremely clever, and I loved how although the public initially hated her, she soon had them eating out of the palm of her hand. I also thought Joshua was an interesting character, as although he is a co-host on 'Death is Justice' it is obvious that he has different opinions to Kristina. I loved that he seemed to secretly be rooting for Martha's freedom, and although he wasn't openly allowed to share his personal opinion, he hinted at it.

The one character who I just wasn't drawn to was Isaac. Although he is extremely loyal and kind to Martha, I just felt as if I didn't know enough about him to form a strong opinion on him. Most of the things we learn about Isaac are from Martha, and although she does know quite a lot about him, I felt as if there needed to be a little more information about who he is as a person. Although there are some chapters dedicated to Isaac, they are in third person, which means that we can never learn about him to the extent that we know Martha. I would have loved to have got inside Isaac's head to learn more about his thoughts and feelings. As Isaac is central to the plot towards the end of the book, I felt as if more focus should have been on him throughout the novel, as I feel as if the ending would have had a bigger impact on me if I had more of an attachment to Isaac.

Although I did enjoy parts of this book, to me it felt like another generic YA dystopian novel. It lacked originality, and I don't think there was much content that I haven't already seen something similar to in in other YA dystopian books i've read. If, unlike me, you haven't already burnt yourself out by reading too many dystopian novels, then I think this book could be extremely enjoyable. However, to me it felt as if it was just another textbook dystopian. The fact that it didn't shock me much meant that sadly, the book didn't stand out much for me.

Cell 7 is now available to purchase!