Turtles all the Way Down, John Green

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Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.

Aza is trying. She is trying to be a good daughter, a good friend, a good student, and maybe even a good detective, while also living within the ever-tightening spiral of her own thoughts.

 

2018 is starting to look like it might be a really good year for me and books, with yet another positive book review. Though with it being John Green, there was no other way this review could have gone.

This book is, as all Green books are, beautiful and thought provoking and emotional. Aza is not an easy character to follow – John went to no lengths to hide the ever crippling thoughts of anxiety and OCD, making it, at times, an extraordinarily hard book to read. There were times I had to put it down and take a break because I understood it so much. Anxiety is a hard thing to live with, but John captured it so well. Hey, and plus side: The Boy doesn’t magically fix her, or whatever, and it doesn’t go away just because she falls in like.

I love the relationship between Aza and Davis. It was beautiful and sad the whole way through the book, the way they both tried to help the other – but couldn’t. Because friends and partners can’t solve everything, and though it was sad, little threads of hope ran through the entire book, right up until the end.

And boy, that end. I simultaneously love and hate it – it was perfect for the book, but I just wanted them all to be happy.

five stars

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee

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Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and travelling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
I rarely read historical fiction. Like. The nearest to historical I normally get is high fantasy that been based off a time period, but with dragons.Or something. But this kind of historical, I can get behind. It was ridiculous, hilarious, and fun – but at the same time, battling serious issues in a way that made your heart clench.
So Monty, our fun-loving, always drunk main character is always in a spot of bother. His Grand Tour is the kind of ‘farewell’ to this before he has to finally grow up – or that’s the plan. Instead Monty (along with best friend Percy and sister Felicity) end up with a tour that honestly, I’m surprised didn’t kill them.
After all, it featured Money running stark naked through the grounds of Versailles  (having just finished watching the series of the same name, I found this twice as funny)getting caught by highwaymen and also pirates. I vote we bring Grand Tours back into fashion – but only if they follow Monty’s own.
One of the main reasons I dislike historical is that a lot of them are written entirely in the way people used to talk. All formal and stiff and rather bland, for a book I want to read for fun. Guide isn’t like that at all – oh, it’s got style down to key, and Monty’s voice is a strong one, that when you read, you know you aren’t reading something set now, but it doesn’t get bogged down by that historical set.
Plus, like, you can’t help but related to the characters –the lines they all come out with are brilliant, witty and great. For example(and here, I post many quotes because, quite frankly, if they can’t get you to read this book, nothing will)
“Ugh. Feelings.” I take a long drink, then pass her the bottle. She has another delicate sip. “You were right—it’s less horrid now.”
“The great tragic love story of Percy and me is neither great nor truly a love story, and is tragic only for its single-sidedness. It is also not an epic monolith that has plagued me since boyhood, as might be expected. Rather, it is simply the tale of how two people can be important to each other their whole lives, and then, one morning, quite without meaning to, one of them wakes to find that importance has been magnified into a sudden and intense desire to put his tongue in the other’s mouth.
A long, slow slide, then a sudden impact.”
“Just thinking about all that blood.” I nearly shudder.”Doesn’t it make you a bit squeamish?”
“Ladies haven’t the luxury of being squeamish about blood,” she replies, and Percy and I go fantastically red in unison.”
“God bless the book people for their boundless knowledge absorbed from having words instead of friends.”
I just… you have to go and read this book. It is, by far, one of the best things I’ve ever read.
five stars

2017 in Books

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

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When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…

Some books are great. Some books are heartbreaking. Some books have you crying at work, and some books have you thinking about them all the way walking home and into the evening.

This book fits into all four categories.

We all played the game when we were younger, in the years between thinking we were immortal and realising we were not. The what would you do if you had a day left to live game, where you pretended the world was at your fingertips and the impossible became possible for twentyfour long hours. Some would say they would travel far and wide, others, that they would say goodbye, give memories back to the people they loved.

In this book, that game is reality. You get a call around midnight telling you that at some point in the next 24 hours, you’re going to die. You don’t know how, or when, but it gives you time to sort everything out, say goodbye and get ready.

Because of this knowing, things have cropped up to give you a good last day; experience centers, apps, discounts….  The app Last Friend is how the two mains meet, and is the whole reason for their day of adventures.

But the app, their friendship and day – all that actually made me think more about fate. I love how, in this book, all these side characters stories get brought together, how the random person on the street is someone important to what you are doing, how the person you might have met is the one you cross the road with later in the afternoon, and how, really, all the small decisions you make are the ones that bring you to why you die.

If Mateo hadn’t have reached out on Last Friend, he would have done various things, but then Rufus wouldn’t have met him and the day might have ended differently – but we will never know, because all those factors did bring around their deaths. Would they have died anyway – if Mateo had never left his house, would he have died sooner, or in a different way?

See, told you this book made me think. I finished it two days ago and I’m still thinking about it. (At least the tears didn’t last as long)

It’s a clever, simple idea that is pulled off effectively – you watch (read), over the whole day, as the two main characters grow and change, even when they know there is nothing to do with that change. You follow them through grieving and trying to work out how to help their friends and help each other, and even though you know how its going to end (spoiler alert, they die) you still mourn for them when it does happen.

I shouldn’t be surprised at the mourning – I’ve read one other book by Silvera and that one got me as well, so I knew already that he was a good storyteller and puller-of-the-heartstrings, but he’s improved with this book, I think. He just knows how to tell a story, and how to make the characters emotions feel just as real as your own, he pulls you up and drags you along with the characters, and with this… I know I say it a lot with character deaths, but I wish they hadn’t died, because I wanted to know what the two main characters could have become – would Mateo have gone back to hiding at home and being careful, or would he have learnt to live?

We will never know.

four stars

Tower of Dawn, Chaol, and a Mini Essay on What Characters are to Us

It’s that time of year again! No, I don’t mean the schools going back, (though, thank god, because I can go shopping without having children EVERYWHERE) I mean its september, which means  A NEW THRONE OF GLASS NOVEL.

I know, originally, by this point in time, we had all hoped to have the last book in the series and were all expecting to be lying down, quietly sobbing in denial because face it, Sarah isn’t going to let all our favourites survive, but I’m actually glad that Chaol got a full novel and a year to himself, rather than the novella and three months from June to now.

When it was announced he was getting a huge book for himself, I seemed to be one of the few that was overjoyed; many people hate hated Chaol since book two. Many more have hated him since book four. But Chaol… I just wanted to know that he would be alright, because out of every character in the series, he is the one I understand and love the most.

I first picked up Throne of Glass because of Celaena. She was the character I needed back then- at eighteen, I had only just ‘escaped’ from a place that had done me a lot of damage. I was, pretty much, the way they had hoped Celaena would be locked up in the camp; broken down and lost myself. I read her story and I vowed to myself that if she could make it, then I could (I mean, technically I failed, I unlike her, do not have a kingdom of my own and am not a missing loved princess, but hey, we can’t all have crowns, and a lot of beautiful guys and girls around us). But while Celaena was the one character that saved me, it was Chaol, that from the beginning, I understood and identified with most.

Chaol’s most important trait has always been his loyalty. From the very beginning, it was loyalty to the crown and his best friend, and that was always going to be his downfall. Because he was so blindly loyal that he didn’t want to see the bad in his kingdom – despite the fact that the king he worked for was evil, and he knew it. That loyalty was the thing that ripped him apart- the thing that many readers decided was ‘out of character’ for him in previous books (see: when he and Dorian fought. When he had Aelin fought). But loyalty isn’t this black and white concept that you can turn off when you realise someone was evil.

Chaol tried. He turned away from his king and threw his sword into the river and that was a massive turning point in his story arc. That was him realising that his entire time as a captain was wrong, but that didn’t stop him being loyal. That’s why he fought so much with Aelin. Some of it was because he did love Celaena and given her his loyalty – only to find out who she was. But the rest of it was because he had built his whole life on being captain to the king and thrown it away. That sword was symbolic – to Chaol, he was throwing his life away. Like no wonder he was so angry at everyone in QoS. He had lost all he knew and he assumed the girl he loved was his enemy (and to be fair, she did kinda act it).

(Sorry I have a lot of thoughts on Chaol)

Anyway, back onto the new book; I knew that I would love Tower of Dawn no matter the outcome. Of course, I wanted Chaol to be happy, but I knew he had a longggg way to go before that; because not only did he have the war raging inside himself for who he was, and an injury he hated, he had seen too much to even know he could be happy again.

I also knew it was going to be an emotional rollercoaster. Every Maas book is, but this one was meant to be Chaol’s own Heir of Fire, and that book destroyed me enough. And it proved to be just that. In HoF, Celaena went into it hurt and hating herself, refusing to accept who she was and what she had become. In ToD, it was an identical journey, minus the whole finding his own magic storyline. Chaol went into it unable to find who he was anymore, and came out with not only new friends, but new love and himself.

I may have cried like, at least five times. (If I could pluck Chaol from the book and protect him forever, I so would)

One of my favourite things about this book, though, has been the reactions from other people. Chaol has never been a favourite of the fandom, and when people heard about this book, many spent months saying they were not going to bother reading it as it would be a waste (which like, is totally wrong since MASSIVE PLOT POINT AND TWIST) or was planning to read it to take the piss out of it. However, many of the people who went into it hating Chaol have come out, maybe not loving him, but at least understanding him.

Many who went in shipping him with Aelin or Nesryn came out shipping him with someone else (I don’t really understand shipping, not in this fandom I honestly just want them all to be happy).

I think that shows how brilliant a writer Maas is; that she can make so many people care about a character they thought they would always hate, and make them fall in love with his journey.

Out of all of the books in the ToG series, ToD has been one of my favourites, because Chaol has always been nearest to who I am than anyone else, and to see him grow over the book was amazing.

And really, there are people out there that don’t understand how some people have coped through fiction or even survived through it – I think this is the book I would hand them to make them understand. Because fiction, and characters, are not just on the page. I’ve spent five years loving these characters, I’ve been on their journeys through pages, and they have seen me through many of mine.

… and I’m slightly terrified to see what will happen in the last book…

There’s Someone Inside Your House, Stephanie Perkins

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

WARNING, THIS REVIEW DOES CONTAIN A PRETTY BIG SPOILER. NUMBER SIX ON MY LIST. SO JUST SKIP THAT IF YOU DONT WANT TO SEE IT. IT’S A VERY BIG SPOILER.

I don’t know where to start with this so please bear with me…

I wouldn’t have picked this up if not for reading Perkins’ previous series. Not normally my kind of thing, Anna and the French Kiss was cute, fluffy, well written and fun so I was looking forward to seeing what else the author could write. And I’m… so disappointed.

I’m never one for saying stick to what you know. Because the only way to improve is to try new things and experiment. But Perkins is good at light and fluffy and cute. She isn’t good at whatever this was meant to be.

I think it was more that she was trying to do too much, than her actual writing. I almost look at this book as two separate stories, and I think she should have chosen one to write and skip the other. Because having all these chapters where the two mains are making out, or having sex, or talking cute in between them being hunted and a load of murders… it doesn’t work.

I may be alone in thinking this, but when there’s a murderer after you, there’s more important things than having sex.

Okay I’m going to try and put my thoughts into words:

  1. It was meant to be like Scream Queens, or something. The only thing you can compare with these two things was they both happened at a school, and multiple people died in different ways. Scream Queens had a huge cast and over the series, you got to know them all enough to kind of care before they were killed off. I get thats a TV series and this is a book so it would never work as well, but the characters that died? You never met them before their chapters (other than like, for a line) so how are you meant to care about them? Its just like… oh cool, a kid died, who were they? I had no emotional impact about it at all. 
  2. With murdery thrillers like this, aren’t you meant to have a few big suspects and it could literally be any one of them? Granted, I rarely read this genre, but it seemed like Perkins was trying to do this with the Love Interest, but gave up in about two chapters and never actually gave reason for any suspects other than oh they dont fit in. Hey, guess what. ITS SCHOOL A LOT OF PEOPLE DONT FIT IN. There was nothing for me to feel fear for? All these evenings where Main Character was alone with LI (before we knew it wasn’t him) were just make out sessions. I feel a bit cheated, I wanted to be on the edge of  my seat, wondering if she really was safe.
  3. The killer was revealed half way through the book, and again, it was a character we only had seen for a sentence or two, so there was no *gasp* moment, nothing that left me wanting to go back through the book for clues, because we didn’t know him. 
  4. Too much of the ‘suspense’ of the book hovered on Main Characters ‘WHAT IF THEY KNEW MY SECRET’ style sentences. It’s built up to be this massive thing and then was….nothing… when it was revealed. The blurb itself says “dark secrets among them must finally be confronted” but this dark secret was anticlimactic, then literally no character cared about it?
  5. The romance itself felt really flat to me. I liked LI enough on his own, but there wasn’t enough of a spark in it for me to want to root for them both to survive or end up together.
  6. The end was just…strange?
    OKAY OKAY I’M BOLDING THIS. THIS IS A SPOILER FOR THE END READ AT YOUR OWN RISK
    Okay so firstly if this community was that saddened by these deaths they would not all be dressed up as the murderer for fun. LITERALLY TOO SOON. Then like, the whole… Main Character killing him, then the POLICE LADY letting her run off to the LI. Like I get he was a murderer and stuff but I’m pretty sure police procedure is still that you TAKE IN THE PERSON THAT KILLED THE MURDERER for at least a statement?

SPOILER FINISHED RESUME READING HERE.

I’m honestly just so disappointed in this book. I had such high hopes for Perkins, but I think I’m going to have to pretend this book never existed and never mention it ever again.

two-stars

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, Lauren James

Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never met, never even spoken to – someone who is light years away?
Romy Silvers is the only surviving crew-member of a spaceship travelling to a new planet, on a mission to establish a second home for humanity amongst the stars. Alone in space, she is the loneliest girl in the universe until she hears about a new ship which has launched from Earth – with a single passenger on board. A boy called J.
Their only communication with each other is via email – and due to the distance between them, their messages take months to transmit across space. And yet Romy finds herself falling in love.
But what does Romy really know about J? And what do the mysterious messages which have started arriving from Earth really mean?
Sometimes, there’s something worse than being alone . . .

This is the first book I’ve read in a while that I’ve read in one go, in the middle of the night. I mean, part of me wishes I hadn’t because it really creeped me out (I have a wonderful imagination which decides that clearly when I’m reading disturbing things, it makes my room feel terrifying. I actually had to turn my fan on because the silence was getting to me.)

So… lets start with that blurb. Think you’re going to be reading some cheesy romantic thing, right? Lonely girl finds love in deep space, everything is perfect, yay? HAHAHAHAHAHAHA NO.

This book is fucking creepy. Lauren James managed to perfectly spread out everything that happened – from dropping hints of what happened in the past to what was happening currently. You were never quite sure who to trust – from Romy herself (who, lets be honest, can’t exactly be sane after so long ago and only TV characters really interact with) (TBH that was my theory for most of the book), to the emails she got from Earth, to the person on the other ship. Or maybe you could trust them all.

It was so cleverly done. Not just the storyline but what it says. Not just in the whole ‘dont trust the random dude you don’t know’ rule, (which I kinda stand by, but at the same time, I’m a random girl online who has a lot of online friends so I can’t really talk) but in the fandom sense of things. I think a lot of people will relate to Romy because she uses her love of a show and fanfic to help her through things. She writes her emotions into the characters. When she feels lonely (which, face it, is a lot) she buries herself in the fanfic she has – and a lot of us do that too. Maybe not with fanfic, but with fiction. Words, shows, fandom is a big part of life nowadays and a lot of us do travel to it when we need comfort.

From start to finish, I loved this book, even if it creeped me out. I want more. I want to know what happens next.

four stars