Friday 29 July 2016

Book Club Picks #1 Am I Normal Yet?

So I was recently invited to join an online book club which I obviously said yes to! We are going to be reading and discussing a new book every month, and this month we have decided to read Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne

Evie isn't normal. She suffers from OCD and anxiety and is frantically trying to hide her mental illnesses from her college friends, Lottie and Amber. After being bullied in high school for her OCD, Evie is determined to have a fresh start at college and be seen just like the rest of the girls. However being a normal teenager also involves dating, and Evie is determined to get a boyfriend. However she soon finds out that teenage boys can be cruel, and she may need her new friends more than she realises.

As i've been reading a lot of mediocre YA contemporaries lately, I started out being quite wary of this one. It follows Evie, a girl who has just started her first year at college and who is determined to not let anyone know about her OCD. The first thing I noticed was that it was set in the UK which I loved! As a British person myself, I find it extremly rare for YA books in general to be set in the UK, as most contemporaries seem to be set in an American high school, so this was already a nice change from the contemporaries i've been reading. Although this book does include the typical cliché things I was expecting it to, it also surprised me with how much I related to Evie. 

Although I do not have OCD so therefore could not relate to that, I do suffer from anxiety, so I was able to relate to her in some ways, such as not leaving the house for weeks and hating when people use mental illness terms lightly. I loved how it was explained perfectly that mental illness terms are known these days, but people use these terms to explain their feelings, such as saying they had a panic attack over something when they have clearly never suffered a panic attack and don't realise how scary it feels. The first time I had a panic attack I literally thought I was having a heart attack, so I understood Evie's frustration perfectly with people with perfect mental health using terms such as these lightly. I felt as if Holly Bourne explained mental health problems perfectly, and she has clearly done her research unlike many authors who throw mental health around as if it is not a big deal and severely compromises peoples lives. Even without personally suffering from OCD, I still felt myself understanding how anxious not being able to wash her hands made Evie, and although I should have been on the side of her parents who were stopping her from washing to try to help her, it was easy to see how anxious it made Evie, and I just wanted her to be allowed to wash so that she would temporarily feel better.

As someone who has been to therapy myself, I felt as if Evie's therapy sessions were extremly accurate to how real therapy sessions are, as I've had to fill in worksheets similar to Evie's and understand it's not always easy to get your feelings down on a piece of paper. Having a mental illness isn't always logical, so there are times when you have no idea what has triggered you, meaning you can't write it down and discuss it with your therapist. I also loved how it focused on relapses, and how most people will go through at least one relapse, but it isn't the persons fault and they will soon get back onto the road to recovery. When you do have a mental illness for an extended period of time, you start to wonder if it is something you can recover from or if it is permanantly a part of you, and Evie put that across to the reader perfectly.

Evie's relationship with Amber and Lottie play a big part in the story, and I loved that the girls were feminists, and I thought the idea of them forming a spinster club was really clever. I loved how they brought up a different topic at each meeting, and especially loved that they talked in detail about periods. Although a lot of YA books have a female protagonist, it is extremly rare for periods to even be mentioned, even though the majority of young girls have them. It always seems to be a bit of a taboo topic in society even though it's a perfectly natural thing, and I loved that the girls recognised this and how tampons and pads are always marketed to be discreet as if being on your period is a shameful thing. I loved how when Guy told them periods were disgusting and they shouldn't be talking about them during lunch, Amber quickly shut him down. I adored Amber and how she was the one keeping the spinster club together, and although she never has a love interest during the course of the book, she is fine with Lottie and Evie discussing boys, although she does also want to talk about more important topics too. Although I related to Evie's anxiety, Amber was the character who I related to the most, as when I was her age I was also the one girl in my group of friends who didn't have a boyfriend and had to suffer my friends constantly talking about boys. I also loved the plotline of Evie starting to slowly lose Jane to her boyfriend, as this has happened to me on several occasions, and I am no longer friends with any of my female high school friends as they all started to hang out with their boyfriends instead of wanting to spend any time with me.

I of course have to talk about Evie's love interests, as with the exception of Oli they all turned out to be assholes. I hated Guy from the start, and along with Evie's friends couldn't understand what she saw in him. Although it may seen fun and exciting to date the bad boy type, I feel as if it never works out for the best and they usually turn out to be bad characters. I hated the way Guy treated Evie, as he was constantly playing with her emotions and acting like he cared about her one minute while ignoring her the next. I found the scene where he was trying to have sex with her extremly creepy, and I was so happy that she didn't go through with it. Although I didn't hate Ethan quite as much as I hated Guy, he was clearly still an asshole for cheating on her on her first date, and I felt bad for Evie for never being able to find a decent guy.

Speaking of decent guys, I loved Oli and thought he was an extremly sweet character, so I was devasted when Evie treated him cruely for the sake of her appearing to be the normal one. The majority of people who don't have a mental illness don't fully understand those who do, so I felt as if both Evie and Oli could have benefited by being friends and sharing their experiences. Although Evie explains that she can't date Oli as that would be like two alcoholics dating each other, I felt the opposite way and felt that talking about their problems with each other would help, as although their mental illnesses are different, Evie has experience with not leaving the house for weeks.

Although I disliked the way she treated Oli for the sake of feeling as if she was the normal one, I loved that near the end of the novel, Sarah told Evie exactly what we as readers were all thinking. There is no such thing as normal, and what we see as normal doesn't necessarily mean that's how the whole world sees it. No one is perfectly normal, and we all have our little personality quirks that could come across as weird to others. The book shows an extremely important message, that we should just be ourselves, and we shouldn't try to rearrange our whole personality for the sake of others. I also loved that the book ended with her texting Oli, and I hope that by the next book they will at least try to become friends.

This book focuses on important topics such as mental illnesses and feminism, and I loved that along with being a fantastic story, it also educates the reader on these issues. This book has definitely pulled me out of my contemporary slump, and I definitely want to continue reading this series!

We will be discussing Am I Normal Yet in our twitter chat TOMORROW (30/07) at 6pm BST. Be sure to follow us at @TheBookClubs and use the hashtag #BCChat to join in!

Wednesday 20 July 2016

Review on Tell Us Something True

After River Dean's girlfriend breaks up with him, he comes across a support group for teenagers with a range of different problems. However, once he realises the others problems range from drug addiction to bulemia, he tells everyone a fake story about being addicted to marijuana. When he asks Daphne, a girl from the support group to be his date to the school dance, the lies become more ellaborate and more difficult to keep. River must decide if he is going to keep up the lies, or if he is finally going to tell the truth

This book was a nice and short contemporary that I easily managed to read in a couple of days. It follows River Dean, a boy who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and tries to seek help from a support group. However he soon realises that the other group members have much bigger problems than he does. I loved River's slow realisation that getting dumped wasn't the end of the world and he could have much bigger problems. He soon meets Daphne, a girl who is addicted to shoplifting. I loved the reasons behind why Daphne shoplifted, and getting to learn about her personal struggles. River's character development was really interesting, and I loved that he went from showing up at his ex girlfriend Penny's house uninvited and relying on her to drive him around the city to getting over her and getting his drivers license.

As it would be really ironic to lie and pretend that I liked this book more than I did, I must tell something true myself and explain the reasons behind why I am only going to be giving this book a three star rating. I felt that there were some great opportunities to focus on some important topics that were pushed aside in favour of a typical teen romance. I thought that Christopher was an interesting character, and I loved that his drug addiction was seen as a serious problem that he had decided to get help for rather than the typical outlook of teens thinking taking drugs is cool. I thought this would be an amazing opportunity for the author to show that teenagers can get help for drug related problems. However I was disappointed that this was barely even a subplot, and we never actually find out if Christopher stops taking drugs, or if Mason recovers from his bulemia. I felt as if this was a wasted opportunity to show an important message. Instead the main plot focuses on a typical teen romance, and we learn nothing about Christopher's drug addiction or his life in general.

River's obsession with Penny made me feel uncomfortable, as instead of respecting her decisions, he keeps showing up at her house uninvited, trying to make her feel guilty enough to take him back, which clearly puts her into an uncomfortable situation. I also hated that despite Penny being a teenager, River says that she is a prude because they had never had sex. River quickly moves on from one girl to the next, which I thought was a bad decision, as it showed that he needed to be in a romantic relationship to be happy. I felt as if it would have sent out a better message to the reader if River had remained single and tried to help Daphne, Christopher and Mason with their more serious problems instead of trying to date Daphne.

This book was very predictable, and I figured out the main plot twist about a quarter of the way into the book even though it wasn't revealed until near the end. I felt as if I barely knew the characters who were meant to be so important to River, especially Luke and Will. I also didn't understand why River wouldn't allow Penny to be his friend. I hate the idea that two people can't be friends just because they used to be in a romantic relationship, and to me it seemed stupid to push someone out of your life who you had spent two years with.

The book did however show the importance of telling the truth, as River wouldn't have got into a huge mess with his friends if he had never lied. I also loved that there wasn't a typical happy ever after, and that River still had a lot of work to do to achieve this.

I felt as if this book was a nice light read, and although it was enjoyable I can't stop thinking of all the potential it had to be something more. It didn't push any boundaries, shock me in any way or leave a lasting impression. Unfortunately my lasting memories of this book are going to be that it was just another cliché contemporary where a boy meets a girl and nothing much happens.

Tell Us Something True is now available to purchase!



Saturday 16 July 2016

Reviewing the Classics #4 Lord of the Flies

                                                                                      Goodreads Summary:

Lord of the Flies is an allegorical novel by Nobel Prize-winning author William Golding. It discusses how culture fails, using as an example a group of British schoolboys stuck on a deserted island who try to govern themselves with disastrous results. Its stances on the controversial subjects of human nature & individual welfare versus the commonweal earned it position 70 on the American Library Association's list of the 100 most frequently challenged Books of 1990–2000. The novel was chosen by TIME as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to the present.

The title is said to be a reference to the Hebrew name Beelzebub ( "god of the fly", "host of the fly", lit. "Lord of Flies"), a name sometimes used as a synonym for Satan. 

 I somehow didn't have to read this book in school at any point, but the plot has always interested me, so I thought it would be perfect for this months classic! The book focuses on Ralph, a young boy who along with a number of other boys has found himself abandoned on a desert island after a plane crash. Ralph soon finds out that there are no adults on the island, and the boys must look after themselves.

I loved the idea of the book taking place during a nuclear war, as although the plot focuses on the boys stuck on the island, we know that there is not only a war raging between the boys, but also between the adults. I loved the little hints we got about the nuclear war, such as the dead man landing on the island attached to the parachute, and Ralph talking about his father.

Ralph was an interesting protagonist, and I loved that he realised it was necessary for them to have some sort of order, rather than letting the boys run wild. It was interesting to watch this order slowly break apart, and for Ralph himself to forget the importance of the smoke, as Piggy had to remind him what it was for several times. Although the book is quite short, the boys changed from educated school boys to savages in a very subtle and slow way, which isn't fully realised until they kill one of the boys. We see children as being cute and innocent, so it ends up being quite shocking when they start to act like savages.

Although there were big changes with all of the characters, I felt Jack's transformation to be the most shocking. It was interesting that he introduced himself as Merridew, which then changed to Jack, and then finally chief. It was also a huge change that he initially couldn't bring himself to kill a pig, but finally ended up hunting Ralph.

I loved that the true nature of the island seemed to change with the boys. Although the island is aesthetically pleasing, the heat becomes unbearable, resulting in the boys getting burnt. The trees bearing both fruit and flowers make the boys sick, and the island itself seems to become more violent with the scorching sun and raging storms. I felt that the island and the fear of the beast drove the boys into their actions, as I felt that they were only doing what they were doing out of fear of the beast and of Jack. Jack leads through fear, which becomes a lot more effective than Ralph's leadership. I loved the irony that the true beast was the boys themselves, as they became their own enemies.

I thought Piggy was an interesting character, as although he was the most sensible and adult like, he couldn't come to terms with the fact they had murdered one of the boys and was trying to make excuses, such as saying it was the boys fault for sneaking up on them. I loved how Ralph initially disliked Piggy, but came to realise he was his one true friend and ally.

I felt as if the ending of the book was a little too convenient, and made me wonder what would have happened if an adult hadn't have shown up. I felt as if the boys killing Ralph would have been a more shocking ending, and it made me wonder if the boys would have died in the fire, or if it would have eventually burnt itself out, leaving them with nothing. The book also makes you wonder what happened to the boys after they were rescued, as although they have escaped their own war, they have to go back into civilisation where there is still a nuclear war happening.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and thought it was an important story that showed mans natural instinct to fight their own kind. It showed the importance of society and rules, and that if left to their own devices, humans would steal, fight and kill each other. It's clear why this book is considered a classic, as it is still very much relevant today. Police are constantly killing innocent people and getting away with it, which can easily be compared to the way Jack tried to lead the boys. I feel as if everyone should read this book at some point in their lives, as it shows a scary but important message about the nature of humanity.

Friday 8 July 2016

Review on The Raven King

The search for Glendower is coming to an end, but so is Gansey's life. A sickness has fallen over Cabeswater, making it difficult for Ronan to escape his nightmares and create new dream objects to help Gansey in his quest. There is also the third sleeper, a demon who is intent on destroying everything that Ronan has dreamt up, including the dreamer himself. With the help of the dreamer, the magician and the psychics daughter, Gansey must find his King and use his favor to kill the demon and stop the distruction. However, nothing is ever so simple in the life of Richard Campbell Gansey III, and sacrifices will have to be made.

SPOILERS ALERT! This will not be a spoiler free review as I have a lot of things to talk and cry about. If you're here wondering if you should read this series then YES YES YOU SHOULD GO READ IT (also check out my reviews on the first three books that are relatively spoiler free)

Ok with that being said OH MY GOD THIS BOOK!! Although this series has been slowly killing me this is the one that has finished me off. I honestly don't know where to start because this book was just so amazingly perfect, but I guess I should start with the plot.

This whole series has been a build up to finding Glendower, a Welsh King who Gansey has been searching for for years. When Gansey was killed by a nest of wasps and resurrected, he heard a voice who he presumed to be Glendower telling him he had been brought back to wake the King, who had been buried on the ley line. The build up to finding him has been extremely exciting throughout the books, but this one finally brought the search to a close and OH MY GOD I WAS NOT EXPECTING IT TO TURN OUT THE WAY THAT IT DID. Gansey's world came crashing down and I was so shocked and upset for him. It was so sad that his dreams were shattered and he had no idea what he was going to do next. All this happening extremely close to the end of the book made me really anxious, as it seemed as if it wouldn't all be wrapped up into a happy ending. I was definitely on the edge of my seat and I read the last 50 pages extremely quickly (I also may have told my mum to go away at one point oops sorry mum!)

This book was definitely the darkest in the series, but it was also the most exciting. I loved that the favor they were going to ask Glendower had to completely change due to the awakening of the demon, and Ronan had to deal with nightmares that weren't his own. I also loved the addition of Blue's father Artemus, and finding out the reason why Blue was able to amplify psychic power. I found the triplets acting as if they were one person extremely creepy, and I loved how there were multiple villains so it was difficult to determine who the main threat was going to be. I also loved that Henry got more of a storyline in this book, and became a big part of helping Gansey not allow his fears to control him.

I loved how although Gansey tried go on alone to finish the quest, his friends soon found him and told him he was being stupid for trying to do it alone. I feel as if the protagonist going off alone at the climax of a book is something that happens frequently, so I loved that the rest of the characters came back to remind us that Gansey isn't the protagonist, and that they are all important to the plot. I was literally heartbroken when the demon took over Cabeswater, taking the “hands and eyes of Cabeswater” with it. Adam attacking Ronan due to the demon taking over his body was one of the most heartbreaking moments in this book, and seeing Ronan not wanting to fight back and allowing Adam to attack him because it was Adam actually brought me to tears. I also hated that Adam blamed himself and wanted to sacrifice himself because of it. Honestly this scene was probably the one that broke me the most.

I know that I keep ranting about how amazing the characters are in this series but I HAVE TO TALK YET AGAIN ABOUT HOW AMAZING THE CHARACTERS ARE IN THIS SERIES. One of the things that I absoutely adored was that there wasn't an obvious protagonist. In the majority of YA novels, it is clear that there is one protagonist that the story follows, and although other characters are important, the story is clearly not about them. I loved that this wasn't the case with this series. In The Raven Boys, I was pretty certain that the plot would revolve around Blue and Gansey, and that a lot of it would focus around the point of Blue not being able to kiss him. However throughout the series the romance between Blue and Gansey was extremely minimal, and once they did finally kiss, it was in an attempt to save Ronan and Adam, and it was in no way romantic. I was actually shocked to find out that the romance between them was in fact not even the main romance of the book, and the main romance was in fact between..... RONAN AND ADAM. YES, THE MAIN ROMANCE IN A YA FANTASY BOOK WAS A GAY ONE BLESS YOU MAGGIE STIEFVATER. But oh my god I honestly could not believe that happened. At the end of The Dream Thieves, it is revealed that Ronan is in love with Adam, and throughout Blue Lily, Lily Blue and The Raven King their relationship slowly progressed, and when I say slowly I mean this is probably the slowest burning relationship i've ever read AND I LOVED EVERY SECOND OF IT! I loved Adam slowly falling in love with Ronan, and all the times he flirted with him and knew Ronan wasn't a person he could mess around with. The kisses between them were extremely sweet, and I adored how Maggie focused on their thoughts and feelings rather than explaining the physical details of the kiss. It was extremely well written and I feel as if more authors would benefit from writing kiss scenes in this way rather than talking about tongues and groping. Basically I love this relationship very much and it is honestly one of my favourite fictional relationships of all time.

Speaking of Ronan and Adam, I felt as if they became the protagonists of the series rather than Gansey and Blue, as I felt a lot of it was down to them and their abilities. There were far more scenes of Ronan and Adam working together than there was of Blue and Gansey, and I felt that these two really were what made the book so exciting. Although this is a book about mythology and magic, the characters felt very real, and had personal problems that had nothing to do with magic, such as Adam being abused and Ronan being unsure what to do with his future. I felt as if these were very important themes that would usually be in contemporary books, so I loved that they managed to be perfectly incoperated into fantasy.

The epilogue was perfect, and I loved how the characters all had exciting futures. I also loved that Ronan and Adam didn't have to sacrifice their futures for each other, as Ronan got to work as a farmer while Adam fufilled his dream of going to college while still staying in a relationship. I feel as if this never works out in most YA, and the characters either have to give up on their dreams to be together or sacrifice the relationship, so I loved that these two didn't have to do either of these things. I also loved that Adam got the chance to settle things once and for all with his parents, and that although he knew he would never have a decent relationship with them, he was finally at peace with it.

I honestly do not know how i'm going to move on from this and read new books, as I don't think anything is going to come close to comparing to this series for me for a long time! I am constantly wanting to discuss this amazing series so if you've read it (and i'm guessing you have otherwise oops spoilers alert) then please come discuss all the things with me!

Friday 1 July 2016

Review on Blue Lily, Lily Blue

After Blue Sargent's mother disappears, only leaving behind a vague note to her whereabouts, Blue must do anything she can to get her mother back. With the help of the Raven Boys, Blue must continue the search for Glyndwr while also searching for her mother. However things aren't going to be simple, and with the ever approaching death of Gansey, Blue must try to find out if it's possible to stop it from happening. Whoever wakes Glyndwr will be given a favour. However, will simply asking for Gansey's life be enough?

I adore this series and I can't believe there is only one book left! This book picks up around a month after Blue's mother has gone missing, and they still can't find a trace of her. However, her note gives them a vague idea, they know she is underground, and that could possibly mean she is with Glyndwr. I loved the high suspense throughout this novel, as the characters lives were put in danger multiple times. I felt as if this book was darker than the previous ones, as there were deaths of beloved characters which has never happened up until this point. I love that the characters themselves have become a lot more complex as the series has progressed, particularly Ronan and Adam, who's abilities have slowly come to light.

One of the main things I have loved about this series is the friendship between the characters, and this was definitely evident in this book. Although I do love the whole gang together, I also loved how the majority of the characters had one to one interaction with each other at some point. I particularly loved the growing relationship between Ronan and Blue, as although they hated each other in The Raven Boys their friendship has steadily progressed throughout the books. I particularly loved the occasions where Ronan saved Blue from falling and seemed genuinely concerned for her safety. Although Ronan vents his grief through anger, there is definitely a more vulnerable side to him and I loved how that started to come across. I also have to mention the relationship between Adam and Ronan. Although they are close friends, Ronan has a crush on Adam, which Adam knows about. I loved that Adam never forced Ronan to admit to it, and that he was flattered by it rather than feeling uncomfortable. I loved the scene in The Barns between them and how they had a plan to blackmail Greenmantle that they didn't share with the others. I also adored the scene where Ronan pushed Adam in the shopping cart, as it was a break from all the drama and showed that they really are just a couple of teenage boys who have been thrown into a world of magic and sleeping kings. It was evident that these two boys cared about each other deeply, no matter if it's in a romantic or platonic way.

I loved that more was learnt about Gansey in this book, such as him rarely staying in one place and leaving without telling anyone. The fact that he has stayed in Henrietta for so long showed that he really is determined to find Glyndwr and feels as if it's his destiny and the reason why he was resurrected. I loved the slow build of the romance between Gansey and Blue, and the fact that they couldn't kiss each other was painful for them. The romance in this series has been extremely subtle, and I think that's one of the main reasons why I've actually enjoyed it. I am actually looking forward to seeing how the romances turn out in The Raven King. Although the romance between Blue and Gansey is pretty clear, I feel as if the relationship between Ronan and Adam is a little will they won't they, and although there are subtle hints, it is very unclear if they will get together by the end of the series.

I loved that this book was full of plot twists, and so many things happened that I was not expecting at all. The plot involving Greenmantle and his wife was interesting, as I did not expect it to go in the direction that it did at all. I also loved that the boys were back in school in this book, and how their school life started to intertwine with Cabeswater. I also adored how Cabeswater started to protect Adam when he was in danger, and how he was able to tell where the ley line connections were weak. I also found the addition of Malory funny, as both Ronan and Adam disliked him and I loved how they got together to complain about him. I also loved the addition of Gwenllian, as she was a funny and interesting character, and I loved how she seemed to annoy everyone. I also felt as if she brought them a step closer to Glyndwr which was exciting!

I am both dreading and looking forward to reading The Raven King, as there is so much potential for things to go badly! I am very concerned for Gansey, as from the start of The Raven Boys we were told that he was destined to die within the year. In this book we learnt that it is extremely easy for these characters to die, and there is now evidence that the ghosts of the people that appeared on St Mark's Eve really do die within the year. However I am also excited for them to finally find Glyndwr and get the favours from him. Also, I am of course looking forward to seeing if Gansey and Blue will kiss, and if Adam will develop feelings for Ronan. I really do think this has been the best book in the series so far, and I hope The Raven King will be even better!