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!