Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer

33806020Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer
Genre: 
Contemporary
Publisher: Canongate
Pages: 368
Format: e-book
Rating: ★★
Note: We received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

If there’s ever a reason to pick up a book, it’s to find out why half the characters are spontaneously combusting without rhyme or reason. The quirky plot drew me in, but the voice drew me out.

Mara Carlyle is our narrator. She’s hyper aware of the this role, calling chapters ‘things you should know’ and the like. I can forgive the story telling being dramatic – hey, not everyday is it that someone blows up in front of your face – but there was something about the narration that felt a little over the top. Maybe it was the humour, a joke gone too far. Not in the crude sense, where you just start gritting your teeth because something fun became something prejudice, but where every humorous moment, or observation is drawn out with one too many examples.  Continue reading “Review: Spontaneous by Aaron Starmer”

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Our First Book Unhaul!

As the new year has rolled around, and we got plenty of new books for Christmas, it was about time to re-evaluate some of the books on our shelves, and which ones were itching to find new homes via our local charity shop. We wanted to go through some of the reasons we decided to get rid of these books, and questions we’ll now ask ourselves when considering whether a book is worth keeping or not! Continue reading “Our First Book Unhaul!”

Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli

cover83907-mediumStargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Genre: Contemporary
Published by: Orchard Books
Pages: 190
Format: e-book
Rating: ★★★★

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I’ve been aware of Stargirl for a while. Firstly, it’s got such an interesting cover, with no title or author, apart from the spine. The design is genius and really draws you in. What’s Stargirl, you ask? Well, it’s basically a John Green book written before John Green books. Jerry Spinelli has somehow managed to create such a special book in under 200 pages that was so memorable.  Continue reading “Review: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli”

Review: Paper Towns by John Green

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Paper Towns by John Green
Genre: 
Contemporary, Road Trip, Mystery
Published by: Bloomsbury
Pages: 305
Format: Paperback: (I own two!)
Rating: ★★★★

I’ve been looking at my shelf of favourite books lately and thought, wait a second, some of these books I’ve only read once! This was the case with Paper Towns. But, an important factor of defining a favourite book is whether it will stand the test of time. Would you want to read it, again and again? Well, I found out… Continue reading “Review: Paper Towns by John Green”

Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green

lookingforalaskaUK.inddLooking For Alaska by John Green
Genre: Contemporary
Published by: Harper Collins
Pages: 272
Format: Paperback
Rating:
Where to Find: Goodreads | Amazon

Somehow I have to come up with something good to say about this book, despite irrevocably disliking it. I didn’t find any of the characters personable, and felt as if I was missing something when I wasn’t upset by the ending. I think it’s always a little risky to read books that have had so much hype, because I knew the majority of the plot already. What I wasn’t expecting however, was to dislike Looking For Alaska as much as I actually did. Stacks of Sarah reviewed this book at the beginning of the year, and when it comes to contemporaries I usually trust her reviews wholeheartedly. So, when I saw she’d given it only one star, I was prepared for the worst.

Continue reading “Review: Looking For Alaska by John Green”

T5W: Books I’d Save In A Fire

For any book-lover, this is the worst case scenario! It’s like asking a mother to chose between the children: its impossible to pick the ones you love the most. I think it would almost be easier to answer the opposite question, as I definitely know which books I’d leave for kindling. But, there are definitely some books on my shelves that I couldn’t imagine leaving behind:

cresslove lies and lemon piesmark of athena
1. The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

This is by far my favourite of ‘The Heroes of Olympus’ series – where the gang are all together for the first time! (And who wouldn’t love the moment when Annabeth and Percy are reunited? They’re just precious.) Although ‘The House of Hades’ is beautiful, I don’t think I could live through the cliffhanger a second time. That’s why Annabeth’s solo quest is my first save!

2. Love, Lies and Lemon Pies by Katy Cannon

This is my favourite contemporary – I could re-read it multiple times and never get bored. There’s something about this book that takes me back to my days of reading solely Cathy Cassidy books, whilst equally giving me the same feeling that ‘Anna and the French Kiss’ left me with. I hadn’t read a book that dealt with family orientated issues in a long time, so this one was a real stand out for me.

3. Cress by Marissa Meyer

I’d save cutie ‘Cress’ for the same reason as ‘The Mark of Athena’. I love when teams come together, but I also love a good fake-boyfriend plot. I really think that the ‘Lunar Chronicles’ has everything you could possibly want from a series: romance, adventure, threat and more romance.

paper townsAnnaFrenchKiss
4. Paper Towns by John Green

My favourite of his works. It’s been a while since I read ‘Paper Towns’ and I definitely think a re-read is necessary before the movie is released. This book really sparked my love of road-trips and fuelled my love of a good mystery.

5. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

No doubt the best of the companion series, Miss Perkins knows how to put a good romance together. I wish there was less confusion between Anna and Etienne and Etienne’s insignificant girlfriend (I didn’t like her so much I’ve forgotten her name.) However, Anna really sparked my interest in contemporary books, so it would be a crime to leave her behind.

It might be surprising that ‘Inkheart’ didn’t make this list, but I do have four copies. One of them is bound to escape the flames. (I only hope it’s one of the English editions!) Plus, Bee’s got a copy of ‘Fangirl’, so we’d be set on that front.

Review: Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

let it snow

Let It Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
Genre: romance, contemporary
Published by:
Speak
Pages:
352
Format:
Paperback
Rating: ★★.5
Where To Find: 
Goodreads | Amazon

Let It Snow is the perfect wintery read to read during a snow filled pyjama day. The three stories are cleverly woven together through the character’s mutual friends. Not only that, but they are full of fun and they’re quick to read.

I’d say that I liked them in the order they appeared, first Maureen Johnson’s then John Green’s then Lauren Myracle’s. So I shall review each story individually.

The Jubilee Express was my favourite because although like the other it took place within a short amount of time the pacing was fast. I just wanted to find out what happened next, I couldn’t help myself from reading it quickly. Jubilee was my favourite of the three protagonists because she was believable and her story was humorous. Stuart was probably my favourite of the love interests too, because he was so dang nice, and his mother is the physical embodiment of Christmas spirit. I loved every second of this sweet romance! It set a very high standard for the other two stories, and I was perhaps a little disappointed with them because of this.

A Cheertastic Christmas Miracle was easily identifiable as a John Green creation. (See How To: Write a John Green novel) All the classic John Green elements were in there, and although I loved the writing style, and thought the (stock) characters were engaging, exaggerated, and hilarious. I couldn’t picture them as actual human beings. If there are people in the world like John Green’s characters then I would very much like to meet them, because they way they talk is enchanting and the construction of their humour is ingenious! I really liked the development of Tobin and the Duke’s relationship, it was heart-warmingly adorable. However, I didn’t really enjoy the actual plot of the story. The majority of it is a race to the Waffle House which last an indeterminable amount of time, if I’m honest, I was quite bored. JP’s reaction of the couple’s relationship redeemed my opinion by the end of the story, but I still think the middle was weaker than the rest of the novel thus far.

I really could not connect with the protagonist, Addie in The Patron Saint of Pigs. I appreciated Jeb as the character that linked the stories effortlessly, but whereas I appreciated him, I don’t think Addie did. The dramatic irony was entertaining, but I was unsympathetic towards Addie’s whinging, and felt that she didn’t deserve Jeb in the end! That may be slightly harsh, because by the end of the story I suppose she’d learned her lesson, but the first half was rather hard to read, because I didn’t want to put myself through the narrative. (Addie was incredibly self absorbed to begin with.) My favourite bit of the story was the end, where all the characters were reunited! It was so lovely to see Jubilee and Stuart again!

Overall, I’m giving Let It Snow 2.5 stars! If you’re in the mood for a festive read next year, definitely give this one a go!

Christmas Recommends

As the Christmas season is upon us, and those of us that are enjoying the toils of school are soon to be released into the world of holidays, we thought it would be good to recommend our five favourite Christmassy reads (in no particular order!)

let it snow1. ‘Let It Snow’ by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle
This is a super cute collection of short stories that are all linked, like ‘Love Actually’. The authors’ writing styles really compliment each other and all the characters are so well developed in a short amount of pages.  My favourite story in the collection was probably Maureen Johnson’s, the first in the anthology, and I hope to read more of her work soon!

My-True-Love-Gave-to-Me2. ‘My True Love Gave to Me’ edited by Stephanie Perkins
Basically, this in another anthology filled with short Christmas stories written by everyone’s favourite authors. They’re so sweet an quick to read, perfect for falling in love, as the tag line says. These really get you into the Christmas mood, without a huge commitment to 400 pages as they’re not all interlinked.

dash and lily3. ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’ by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
Christmas just seems to be the season to read collaborations. The book is set in a wintery New York and is about two unsuspecting teens finding romance. What’s not to love? Again, this is a quick read, but full of laughs and anecdotes, you can’t help but feel cheerful the whole way through.

Fangirl4. ‘Fangirl’ by Rainbow Rowell
I chose ‘Fangirl’ because I think there’s a real emphasis on the importance of family and communicating with them, which is a great message for the Christmas season. All Cath is in a completely new environment, her family and love interest offer her comfort and security. A tear-jerker, but the most adorable and relatable book ever written.

divergent5. ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth
This might seem like an odd choice because there’s nothing Christmassy about it at all. I mean, a war between factions, with murders, conspiracies and battles? Not exactly all merry and bright. However, I think it’s the perfect book to take you somewhere completely new. It will absorb your whole mind and make your heart race – something to keep you completely occupied on a Christmas afternoon.

How To: Write a John Green Novel

You will need:

1. a male protagonist with a quirk.
2. a manic-pixie-dream-girl love interest who is ‘damaged’ and that the protagonist can use to find/fix himself.
3. one polar-opposite best friend and, optionally, one obnoxious best friend.
4. a setting that is based in reality, but somehow feels ethereal.
5. one hella good road trip.
Optionally you can add a missing girl (see 2.) into the equation.

It’s to be expected that any author is going to have some patterns in their writing style, and it’s particularly easy to spot them when their collected works so far and just the one genre. As a disclaimer, I am in no way trying to dissuade any one to not read or not enjoy John Green’s novels! They’re pretty wonderful, and Paper Towns is even on my favourites list, but just because I like the author doesn’t mean their writing is perfect. Despite whatever I say in this post I will not stop reading and enjoying Green’s works, and I look forward to whatever he publishes in the future. So be warned.

John Green is such a prominent author on any book shelf, be it library, supermarket or personal, that it’s become hard to criticise his work. This is partly due to the fact that he is also such a prominent member of the internet community, which makes him feel like a friend, or at least someone that we know a little more than the average author, and you wouldn’t criticise a friend, would you?

There’s no disputing the fact that ‘The John Green Formula’ (I will hereby refer to it as the TJGF) is a bestselling formula. The TJGF gives readers carefully developed characters and intricate love stories, not to mention they’re fun to read – I can not stress this enough. As much as a I enjoy the TJGF (which, I guess, technically makes it The The John Green Formula, but ‘The TJGF’ sounds better, so we’ll roll with it) I also find it a little frustrating.

I’m writing about the TJGF in my EPQ project about the way in which the first love is presented in YA and how it relates to character development, and it got me thinking more about the frequently occurring tropes in YA. The Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl being one of them, I’m not entirely sure where this came from, and it would be ignorant to say it must have started with the TJGF, but that seems to be where it’s most commonly recognised. Lauren DeStefano, author of the Chemical Garden trilogy, wrote a piece on the MPDG (I’m really going for the initialisms) and you can read it here. Her main point is that the MPDG trope objectifies women, and I can totally see where she’s coming from. (See 2.)

The MPDG trope is just as problematic as the ‘damsel in distress, need a boy to save me’ trope (the DIDNABTSM?) and this leads to questioning the representation of women in YA – and you can see how this controversy has spiralled out of just talking about the patterns in bestselling John Green novels. It brings on a whole feminist debate and issues about consent in YA literature – and let me tell you, they definitely should be discussed. I could go on and write a dissertation on the problematic tropes of the YA genre, but I’ll leave you with what I’ve got, slightly abruptly if anything, so that we can take some time to think about this stuff.

It’s almost strange to look at YA in such a critical light, as I normally think about YA as something I can read to take a break from the books on my English Literature course. But they’re so much more than that, the content and issues are just as serious as the ones in what are regarded as ‘the classics’.

Thanks for reading! It’s been a wild ride, and all I can say is ‘that escalated quickly.’

 

 

Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

17208924Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Genre: Contemporary, LGBTQ
Published by: Penguin
Pages: 310
Format: Paperback
Rating:
★★
Where to Find:
Goodreads | Amazon

Will Grayson and Will Grayson, by John Green and that other guy, you have both failed to impress me. I had such high expectations for this book, after reading all of John Green’s other published works and having sampled David Levithan’s writing when I read ‘Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares’. Perhaps, because of these high expectations, I was guaranteed to be let down.

      Being a co-written book, ‘Will Grayson, Will Grayson’ is a mixture of good and bad. Unlike other co-written books, such as ‘Beautiful Creatures’, it is easy to tell which writer is writing which Will Grayson. I preferred the first Will, who had a fairly robotic way of life until his joints were oiled by love. The way that this Will Grayson articulated his feelings was occasionally beautiful but generally easy to relate to. It was easier to love this Will Grayson, compared to the second one.
      The second Will Grayson was distinguished by his inability to use capital letters. He was suffering from depression and knew that he shouldn’t use his mental condition as an excuse for being a rude and horrible person, but did it anyway. The way he treated his friends and his mother made me want to distance myself from his character, or completely skip his chapters all together. One Will Grayson was definitely enough for me.
      The second Will Grayson was gay. This book did a lot to raise the awareness of homosexuality; the plot is all about a musical production about being gay. But, I didn’t understand why it was so necessary to make a big deal over who was gay and who wasn’t. Isn’t the point of raising awareness about homosexuality to promote that everyone is normal, no matter what? Why did the fact that a character may or may not be gay have to constantly be mentioned?
      Also, one of the main aspects of the book was that the Will Graysons were both meant to meet. This meeting didn’t happen until 100 pages in, yet the I felt the plot in first 100 pages could have been at least halved. Not a lot was happening up until the point they met, and to be honest, not a lot happened after that either. I’d say, out of the whole 308 pages, both Will Graysons were together for 20 pages, max. Not what I expected.
      The ending was abrupt and unsatisfying, but at least one Will Grayson got a happy ending.
Of course, if you’re looking for a book that has a trial and error (or trial-error-trial) attempt at being witty and somewhat insightful then this is the book for you. If you’re dead set on reading this book just because John Green co-wrote it, may I recommend ‘Paper Towns’ instead? The library also has a copy of this and you won’t regret the decision of deciding to follow the story of Quentin and Margo over Will Grayson and the other Will Grayson.