Saturday, 31 October 2015

Twenty Love Poems & A Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda

Twenty Love Poems & A Song of Despair
by Pablo Neruda

Summary: The Chilean Pablo Neruda (1904-1973) was probably the greatest and certainly the most prolific of twentieth-century Latin American poets. He brought out his first collection at the age of seventeen, and quickly developed an assured and distinctive poetic voice. His third book, Veinte Poemas de Amor y una Cancion Desesperada - Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair- was published in 1924 and attracted international acclaim. It remains one of the most celebrated and admired books of erotic poetry published in the last hundred years, with over a million copies sold worldwide. Neruda was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1971.
This book was...well, a major disappointment.

So, here's the thing about me and poetry: when I love it, I really, really love it. I adore it obsessively with every fibre of my being and the words of my favourites get stuck rattling around in my head and I can't seem to shake them. Poetry... It can be so amazingly beautiful, but when I dislike it? I sort of dislike it with that same intense passion.

Unfortunately, this was one of the times where I found myself passionately disliking it. That surprised me to be honest, because I've heard a lot of praise for Neruda and I've seen quotes from his work floating around on the internet and liked them...that's why I picked this book up (that, and a minor case of cover lust -- not sure why really, but I adore this cover).

His poems were kind of -- mediocre? They were repetitive and annoying, they used way too many similes (often bad similes and ones that just don't go well together). The poems were more cringe-worthy than romantic, and they often seemed more about his admiration and obsession with breasts than about love. None of the poems struck a cord with me or made me feel anything.

Okay, that's a lie. One of them did. The one at the end called "Tonight I Can Write" -- the problem with that is, the quotes I've seen on the internet and liked were from that and it gave me these expectations for what his poetry would be like...but it was the odd one out, one jewel in a pile of grey rocks (it's the one that goes "I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.").

I think part of the problem is that some of his poems just don't translate well/the translation was bad. I mean, his writing isn't really my cup of tea in general, but I do think that a lot was lost in translation making the poems seem worse than they were and had I been able to read them in the original language, perhaps I'd have found more beauty in them.

(For example, there's this line in one of them where he compares a woman's breasts to white snails. Yes, snails. That's just -- I admit, I laughed when I read it. Then I googled it, because lolwhut? But, apparently in the original version, the word he used translated more accurately to "shells" -- shells are a bit more of a romantic comparison than snails are, right?)

So...yeah, this book disappointed me a lot. I can acknowledge the literary merit in Neruda's works, but they're just not my kind of thing at all and I think the translation snuffed out any potential spark I might've found in his words. I'd rate this 1 star out of 5 (the 1 star being for "Tonight I Can Write").


Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Alma Classics: The Complete Peter Pan (& Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

I'm going to do this review a little differently than I normally would, because I've already reviewed Peter Pan before (the short version is: I absolutely adore it, it is so magical and beautiful and is one of my all time favourite stories). So... This is going to be less of a review and more of an Alma Classics appreciation post where I talk a little about what I love about these specific editions.

The thing about classics, for me, is that there are so many different editions of them out there that I can never decide which ones I want to collect. I mean, I want them to be good reading copies (not too heavy or bulky, reasonably sized text, well edited, etc.) and not be too expensive, but I also want them to look pretty on my shelves because as much as I love reading books, I guess I sort of love collecting them too. 

The Alma Classics, so far, have ticked all those boxes and more for me. I only own two so far that I was sent to review a while ago and I love them. I love the cover designs -- they're simple and lovely, they're very distinctive and suit the stories really well but they also look good when you put them side-by-side.

The Complete Peter Pan has cute little illustrations scattered throughout the book and it includes the novel, Peter Pan and Wendy, plus Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (a prequel novel), and also the play -- the latter two I hadn't actually read before I got this book. And, it also has a lot of extra stuff at the back for younger readers (notes, a glossary, a test, etc.) so I've decided to get my niece this version for Christmas too.

Now, Alice in Wonderland... I've never actually reviewed the story of this one, so I'll start with a min-review of the story itself: all I'm going to say about it is that it's one of those stories that people will either love or hate. Personally, I loved it. I love the nonsense of it all and I love that amongst all the bizarreness and nonsense there are little quotes that jump out and seem to be dripping with deeper meaning...the kind of quotes that stick with you.

This is the Alma edition for the 150th anniversary. Again, it includes the novel and sequel and lovely illustrations. But, it also includes a copy of Lewis Carroll's handwritten Alice's Adventures Underground manuscript with his original illustrations (this is the manuscript which later became Alice's Adventure's in Wonderland)... Again, something I hadn't read before I got this edition.

Basically, I just really love these editions -- they're everything I wanted them to be, with a little something extra. 

Currently pining for these ones too so I can expand my collection (definitely going on my Christmas list):

How awesome are those covers?! I love them dfjvdk! 


Monday, 26 October 2015

Welcome to Night Vale by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Welcome to Night Vale
by Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Summary: Located in a nameless desert somewhere in the great American Southwest, Night Vale is a small town where ghosts, angels, aliens, and government conspiracies are all commonplace parts of everyday life. It is here that the lives of two women, with two mysteries, will converge.

Nineteen-year-old Night Vale pawn shop owner Jackie Fierro is given a paper marked "King City" by a mysterious man in a tan jacket holding a deer skin suitcase. Everything about him and his paper unsettles her, especially the fact that she can't seem to get the paper to leave her hand, and that no one who meets this man can remember anything about him. Jackie is determined to uncover the mystery of King City and the man in the tan jacket before she herself unravels.

Night Vale PTA treasurer Diane Crayton's son, Josh, is moody and also a shape shifter. And lately Diane's started to see her son's father everywhere she goes, looking the same as the day he left years earlier, when they were both teenagers. Josh, looking different every time Diane sees him, shows a stronger and stronger interest in his estranged father, leading to a disaster Diane can see coming, even as she is helpless to prevent it.

Diane's search to reconnect with her son and Jackie's search for her former routine life collide as they find themselves coming back to two words: "King City". It is King City that holds the key to both of their mysteries, and their futures...if they can ever find it.
I don't often review books that I could not finish but I really wanted to with this one. Sometimes I can't finish books because I just don't like them, because something about them is just bad in my opinion, but this one... This one is unusual, because there wasn't anything inherently bad about this book, it just wasn't my cup of tea really.

So... Just to be clear: I could not finish this book. I could only get about a third of the way into it before giving up. But I also think it's a good book and I would recommend it to other people -- which is why I'm reviewing it anyway.

This was one of the books I've been most anticipating this year. I'm not a fan of the podcast, but that's purely because I'm not a fan of podcasts in general (I lack the attention span required to listen without zoning out/getting distracted)... I tried listening to some of it and I'd seen so many amazing quotes and edits on tumblr for it and found myself wishing it were a book instead. And then it was and I was so, so, so excited for it.

The kind of left me a wee bit disappointed but in a lot of ways it did actually live up to the high expectations I had for it.

It was wonderfully weird, it had a really awesomely distinctive writing style, and the story and the characters were really original. And, perhaps my favourite part, was that amongst all that quirk and oddness there were moments and quotes that were actually really poignant.

The only issue I had - and the reason I couldn't finish the book - was that while I did adore and appreciate the writing style, it also got a bit tedious. It's the kind of writing style that I love but in moderation. I'd find myself getting frustrated when I'd have to go through page after page of meandering narrative before it got to the point...and it's not so much that those parts were bad, the problem was that while it was well written, that style didn't lend itself very well to driving the plot forward.

It's know that feeling when you're really excited about going somewhere and the driver takes the longest possible route, and sure the scenery is lovely but you just want to get there, you know? Reading this book felt that way to me. That feeling of impatience, and it was slowly driving me towards a reading slump because I wanted to be reading a book that would hook me, a book that was fast paced and this was not that book.

So yes. The book is incredibly original and I would really recommend it to fans of the podcast or anyone who likes their stories to be quirky and bursting with originality (especially if you prefer slower paced stories)... It just wasn't the book for me, because while I appreciated its strengths, it was just the wrong type of story at the wrong time.


Thursday, 22 October 2015

The Good Girls by Sara Shepard

The Good Girls
by Sara Shepard
Summary:  From Sara Shepard, author of the #1 New York Times bestselling Pretty Little Liars series, comes the shocking sequel to The Perfectionists—with an ending you'll have to read to believe!

Mackenzie, Ava, Caitlin, Julie, and Parker have done some not-so-perfect things. Even though they all talked about killing rich bully Nolan Hotchkiss, they didn't actually go through with it. It's just a coincidence that Nolan died in exactly the way they planned . . . right? Except Nolan wasn't the only one they fantasized about killing. When someone else they named dies, the girls wonder if they're being framed. Or are they about to become the killer's next targets?
I'm going to try to keep this review short and to the point, because a lot of what I have to say about it will just be repeating things I loved about the first book. And I did love this one. I'm still surprised by how much I enjoy this series because it normally wouldn't be my kind of thing -- there's just something about it that I can't help but like.

I think it is probably the female characters and their relationships with each other in particular. There's these fierce female friendships and the girls are there for each other and even when they've had arguments, they're still there for each other and I just -- kjfdhgldj! I love that. I have read way too many books this year with terrible and toxic female relationships so it's really refreshing whenever I find one that doesn't do that (and I appreciated the diversity of the girls too, from their interests to ethnicities and their parents financial situations).

And the plot of this one? It started out a bit slower and took longer to get into than the first one did but then the last third of the book more than made up for it. I sort of guessed the twist, but then I dismissed it (after flipping back through the book to check), but then it happened and it was awesome. While I suspected the twist, I didn't actually expect to be right and it's rare for a book to surprise me like that and it made me want to go back to reread the first book to pick up on things I missed.

I kind of went into this book expecting it to be really drawn out the way the PLL series had been, but I was pleasantly surprised. This book wraps up the story nicely, while still leaving the door open for the series to continue (which I really appreciate because few things frustrate me as much as a series that gets dragged out and leaves you feeling obligated to continue just for some sense of closure).

I really want to recommend this book to fans of another book, but I can't because the comparison would hint too much at the twist and it's more fun not knowing... So I won't do that. I'd rate the book 4 stars out of 5. It's a really fun book and if you want to read a book with good female friendships and a murder mystery, I'd recommend this one.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
Knopf Books for Young Readers
[October 20, 2015]
ARC from friend

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet's AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it's clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she'd never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

I didn't know what to expect from this book. I wasn't really feeling it because I'm not a big fan of different formats of writing - it takes a lot for diary entries or letters or emails to work for me and this book was only gonna be non-straight-up-prose formats. But everyone wanted this damn books and Random House was giving out something absurd like 2,000 hardcover galleys at BEA (HARDCOVER GALLEYS) so clearly this had to be something amazing and I had to check it out. I'd decided to pick it up on one of the last days at BEA (because it's a 600 page hardcover), but a friend got a duplicate and offered to give me her extra so I took her up on that generous offer that meant not carrying it. Then I suffered a massive, massive reading slump all summer long. I couldn't finish a book, but everyone kept going on and on about how amazing this one was. So, shortly before leaving for London, I picked it up.

It was slow goings, at first. The format really didn't suit me and I just didn't feel invested in the plot. I sat and ready the first 150 pages in two sittings a couple days a part. Then something happened and I was hooked. I can't even remember what exactly it was or what changed, but suddenly I was sitting and reading the rest of the book - 450 pages - in one sitting.

The characters were all rich and full figured and remarkable. For the most part, there were no good or bad people. They were all just people. I fell in love with Kady and Ezra and the idea that they were very much regular teens when all this happened and no matter what happened, they didn't fully lose the fact that they were just teenagers. And honestly, even the AI wasn't all bad. It was just as full a character as Ezra and Kady were. These full characters made for really interesting relationships that were constantly changing among all the characters.

Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff were also not afraid to pull any punches. They were willing to go in all kinds of directions you couldn't see coming, to kill off as many darlings as they felt necessary in any manner, and the ending? Oh man the ending was brutal, guys. Absolutely brutal. It's been quite a time since I finished, and I'm still not over it.

As a non-believer in the untraditional book formats, I also have to be clear that I was won over. Kaufman and Kristoff took untraditional to lengths I never could've predicted and it hurt a little bit to think about how they were formatted, honestly. It was intricate and complicated and I don't even know how they came up with it. And in this instance, it completely and totally worked.

Illuminae is going to hurt to read. Knowing book 2 is a year away is rather painful for me and it likely will be for you too. But I feel quite confident in saying that it lives up to the massive hype and the massive budget they put into it and it truly is unlike anything you've ever read and it will make you think quite a bit. Good luck reading it.


Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Dreamstrider by Lindsay Smith

Lindsay Smith
Roaring Book Press
[October 6, 2015]
ARC from Publisher

A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject's body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

I completely adored Lindsay Smith's SEKRET duology and this cover is stunning. Combined with another incredible twist on spies? I was very, very interested. It didn't QUITE live up to my expectations, but it was still a damn good book.

The world building here is incredibly intricate and delicate. I think because I was reading this while in a slump, it got a little too complex for me at times, but it was really incredible as a whole. It's hard to find world building like that. Smith essentially built two different worlds that were intertwined and each had their own sets of rules and she just made them work together in really beautiful ways.

The characters were incredibly well built. They were all so well developed and the relationships they had, especially in relation to Livia, were quite complicated and constantly changing. You could think you knew how a relationship was going to go, but you could end up being very, very wrong.

And if you can't figure out exactly who the characters are and how they relate to the story easily, you certainly can't figure out the actual story easily. Smith is such a master at these well developed worlds and characters that they combine to make this story you just can't predict. It was so well executed and interesting to follow - because all I could really do is just ride the wave instead of trying to figure out what would go next. 

This wasn't what I expected or what I was really up to reading while in a slump. But I still loved that it played with dreams - a long time fascination for me - and had all the complex world and character building I expected from Smith (and more). I highly recommend picking this one up and I'm so excited to see what's next.


Monday, 12 October 2015

Going Over by Beth Kephart

Going Over
by Beth Kephart

Summary: In the early 1980s Ada and Stefan are young, would-be lovers living on opposite sides of the Berlin Wall--Ada lives with her mother and grandmother and paints graffiti on the Wall, and Stefan lives with his grandmother in the East and dreams of escaping to the West.
I'm not sure how to explain my thoughts on this one really... It wasn't a bad book, but I didn't like it. Actually, for a while I sort of hated it.

The writing was good (beautiful, really) but the book itself -- it was boring and it really dragged. It took me about two months to finish it even though it's only about 260 pages long. Given the subject matter of the book, it should've been tugging at my heartstrings, it should've made me feel something, some sort of emotional connection but all I felt was frustration and the intense desire to be done with this book.

I picked it up because I wanted to read a book, particularly a YA book, about the Berlin Wall and that turned out to be the worst part of the story.

I think part of the problem was Ada and her relationship with Stefan. The whole thing about him trying to escape so they could be together, so he could be free, that could've been so brilliant -- except instead of it being his idea, it's something Ada repeatedly pressures him into and she's so selfish and emotionally manipulative about it (even going as far as trying to make him think his grandmother doesn't love him so that he would leave her behind and letting him feel guilty for something bad that happens to her because he wasn't there to protect her from it) and I just... I could not root for them at all. If she had been supporting and agreeing with his decision, that would be fine, but she's literally demanding he risk his life for her...that's a toxic sort of relationship.

So - yeah, that ruined that part of the book for me. The fact that her character is young makes her flippant attitude towards the risks she asking him to take slightly more understandable but it still made it really difficult to like her (a character doesn't have to be likeable for a book to be good but she wasn't unlikeable in an interesting way, just annoying).

I found the stuff linked to her work at the daycare interesting, and her relationship with her best friend. Those parts were the closest it came to me liking the book...but her relationship with Stefan just ruined it for me (and the ending they got, it felt a bit abrupt).

Stefan's chapters were... Well, they were well written, but they were kind of flat. Maybe because those chapters basically revolved around Ada -- we got little snippets of his back story, but Ada was the focus, the object of obsession and since I've already established that I did not like their relationship, well...

Reading about the wall -- the true stories of it really get to me emotionally, so this book had a head start when it came to being the kind of book that gets under my skin...but it just didn't. At all.

Basically, I just didn't like this book at all, it did nothing for me. I do plan to read other books by the author though, because I did like the writing style -- it was lovely and distinctive and hopefully other books of hers will bring that same awesomeness but with characters and a story that are more my cup of tea.

I'd rate this book 1.5 stars out of 5.


Saturday, 10 October 2015

Paris for One by Jojo Moyes

Paris for One
by Jojo Moyes

Summary: Nell is twenty-six and has never been to Paris. She has never even been on a weekend away with her boyfriend. Everyone knows she is just not the adventurous type.

But, when her boyfriend doesn't turn up for their romantic mini-break,
Nell has the chance to prove everyone wrong.

Alone in Paris, Nell meets the mysterious moped-riding Fabien and his group of carefree friends. Could this turn out to be the most adventurous weekend of her life?
This book is one of the £1 Quick Reads books (find more about that here) and I think it's actually the first of them that I've read. And, well, I didn't like it very much.

I picked it up because I wanted to check out the authors writing style before diving into one of her bigger books. Unfortunately, the writing style was one of the things I didn't really like much -- I'm not sure why exactly, it might have just been that I don't particularly like when a story is written in third person present tense (third person past tense? Great! First person present tense? love it? First person past tense? Why not! But this combo just irritated me).

The main character was kind of bland through the majority of the story and only seemed to develop a real spark of personality in the last quarter of the story (considering the book was less than a hundred pages, that's really not good).

Actually, the story overall was pretty bland and that was my problem with it. It was boring, it wasn't interesting, it was horribly predictable and then just as it was starting to pick up and get somewhere, it was over... It felt like the story was ending where it was really beginning. But then maybe part of my issue was just that it's a short story and they're not my kind of thing in general (I have read and liked some, but often the ones I like are featuring characters from novels I've already read).

I didn't hate it... but, I'm really hoping this story isn't a good indicator of what Jojo Moyes's books are like in general (I have two on my shelves) because it just wasn't my cup of tea at all. Although, on a more positive note, at least I've now lowered my expectations -- I've seen mostly glowing reviews of her novels and that hype could've led to major disappointment. Hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised now instead.

I'd rate this 1.5 stars out of 5.


Tuesday, 6 October 2015

A Thousand Nights by E.K. Johnston

A Thousand Nights
E.K. Johnston
Disney Hyperion
[October 6, 2015]
ARC from BEA

Lo-Melkhiin killed three hundred girls before he came to her village, looking for a wife. When she sees the dust cloud on the horizon, she knows he has arrived. She knows he will want the loveliest girl: her sister. She vows she will not let her be next.

And so she is taken in her sister's place, and she believes death will soon follow. Lo-Melkhiin's court is a dangerous palace filled with pretty things: intricate statues with wretched eyes, exquisite threads to weave the most beautiful garments. She sees everything as if for the last time. But the first sun rises and sets, and she is not dead. Night after night, Lo-Melkhiin comes to her and listens to the stories she tells, and day after day she is awoken by the sunrise. Exploring the palace, she begins to unlock years of fear that have tormented and silenced a kingdom. Lo-Melkhiin was not always a cruel ruler. Something went wrong.

Far away, in their village, her sister is mourning. Through her pain, she calls upon the desert winds, conjuring a subtle unseen magic, and something besides death stirs the air.

Back at the palace, the words she speaks to Lo-Melkhiin every night are given a strange life of their own. Little things, at first: a dress from home, a vision of her sister. With each tale she spins, her power grows. Soon she dreams of bigger, more terrible magic: power enough to save a king, if she can put an end to the rule of a monster.

I love the story of A Thousand and One Nights and the uptick in retellings of it have been wonderful for me. But it's also a bit nerve wracking to see so many come out so closely together - they need to each be wonderful in their own right and it's always worrying that they won't be.

A Thousand Nights is a beautifully written, incredibly women-centric retelling of the story and I couldn't have loved it more.

The writing is absolutely stunning - hypnotizing, really. I was blown away by how E.K. Johnston spun her words and I'm already eagerly anticipating her next books. I read this book during BEA with the intent to finish and pass it on to somebody else and had no issue becoming absorbed while on the show floor. That's how good she is. And really, anything getting read during BEA is a bit of a miracle in itself.

I had some concerns when I started out because Lo-Melkhiin is really the only character who gets a name. Only having one character have a name, and having that character be "the bad guy", isn't exactly a promising start, you know? But throughout the book, Johnston turns that on his head. He may be the only character with a proper name, but he is soon shown not to be the most powerful.

In fact, the book is rather feminist. It's touch upon in the summary about how the main character and her sister both begin using magic while she's in captivity, but I don't want to spoil anything else. I will say, that women play and their power and their abilities and their "roles" play an incredibly important part in how the story plays out and I nearly swooned at how perfect it was.

So, if you're in love with retellings of A Thousand and One Nights, or if you just like feminist reads, I would rather strongly recommend picking this one up this week.


Monday, 5 October 2015

The Perfectionists by Sara Shepard

The Perfectionists
by Sara Shepard

Summary: In Beacon Heights High, Nolan Hotchkiss is king. His charm, wealth and good looks are deceptively seductive, and many are the students whose lives and reputations have been ruined by it. All while Nolan continues to reign, unquestioned and undisrupted. Until now, that is.

Mackenzie, Ava, Julie, Caitlin and Parker seemingly don't have much in common. Each has their own friends, dramas and goals. But one thing they do share: they all have a deep hatred of Nolan Hotchkiss. And they all think it's about time he paid for what he's done. They come up with the perfect murder - a hypothetical murder, of course. It's all wishful thinking ... until they wake up one morning to find that their wish has come true. Nolan has been killed - in exactly the way they planned. The thing is, they didn't do it. So who did?
I didn't go into this book expecting it to be amazing -- I expected to like it. Just like it, I wanted it to be a fast paced and fun read to kill time for a few hours...and it was those things, but I actually liked it way more than I expected to. And then I sort of loved it for pleasantly surprising me that way?

So...yes, I really enjoyed this book. So much so that I literally started reading the sequel as soon as I finished reading the first one.

The story was predictable at times (and some stereotypes, like the mean step-mum, bothered me), but that's to be expected with this sort of book, and the plot was very much like a soap opera a lot of the time...the plot kind of hooked me and entertained me, it kept me reading, and there was some interesting romance stuff going on...but what made me like the book was the characters.

Well, the five main female characters, to be specific. I loved them and I loved their friendship -- I've been looking for more books with positive female friendships in it...and while this book did have some of those stereotypical toxic friendships and catty moments, those were totally outweighed by the good parts. By the girls that are fiercely protective of each other and don't judge each other, by the fact that they're all so different but it doesn't matter because they click and they care about each other and that's more important than common interests could ever be and we get to witness these friendships forming, because only two of the girls were friends before the books begins.

Basically, those five characters and their friendship were what made the book for me. The plot was entertaining but not much more than that (actually, it was frustrating at times because it suffers from that same annoying flaw as Pretty Little Liars, where you just want to scream at the girls to use their words -- to tell the adults and tell the police what is going on instead of digging themselves into a pit of lies).

The plot was actually a lot darker than I expected it to be though -- there are things like suicide and mental illness and bullying mentioned, as well as domestic violence and statutory rape/assault (unlike PLL, it really acknowledges that an older dude dating a high school girl is creepy and fifty shades of wrong)... So, if you read it, just know going into it that those are things that happen/are mentioned.

I think that's all I have to say about the book really. If you want something fun with good female friendships, check this one out -- especially if you're a Pretty Little Liars fan (the two are actually similar in a lot of ways but I think I liked this one more). I'd rate it 3.5 stars out of 5 (possibly 4, for being a pleasant surprise).


Thursday, 1 October 2015

Harry Potter: Character Vault by Jody Revenson

Harry Potter: Character Vault
by Jody Revenson

Summary: Unlock new information about your favourite characters from the Harry Potter movies with this definitive coffeetable book profiling the good, the bad, and everything in between within the Harry Potter universe. Dive into the personal journeys of beloved Harry Potter heroes, and an insightful look at the motivations and actions of the films’ most notorious and complicated villains. Concept art, behind-the-scenes imagery, and film stills track everyone from Harry, Hermione, and Ron to Dobby, Mad-Eye Moody, and Dolores Umbridge, telling their complete stories as they evolve throughout the film series. A comprehensive collection of the movies’ beloved characters, this beautifully designed book is the ultimate Harry Potter character overview.
This is not the type of book I normally read or review, so I'm not quite sure how this goes... I guess I'll just wing it, okay? Okay!

I pretty much loved this book. Not only is it really aesthetically stunning (really well made, really high quality), but it sparked that same ache of nostalgia and wonder that Harry Potter gives me. This world and these characters that so many of us grew up a way, even though it was fiction, it was real to us and this book is all about the process of taking that world that exists between the pages of books and in the imagination of the readers who love it so much and turning it into this real, tangible thing instead of just an idea -- and that was fascinating to read about.

I loved getting a behind the scenes look at how the creators of the movie brought this world J K Rowling created to life -- the attention to every little detail left me kind of in awe and I'd never really considered before just how much thought goes into making movies like Harry Potter look and feel authentic (or the things they have to think about for the sake of continuity and to avoid anachronisms).

Really, I loved it for the insight into movie making almost as much as I loved it for being about Harry Potter.

But, even if you're not particularly into what goes into making a movie or the process of bringing a character to life from page to screen, this is still a wonderful book to have if you're a fan of the series -- just because it's beautiful really, the illustrations are incredible and the photos are gorgeous, and it's nice to see the visual progression of the characters from the first time we saw them to the last.

And, it had these two posters! One for The Order of the Phoenix and one for the Death Eaters:

I'd rate the book 5 stars out of 5. I haven't read the other two books (I think there's one for creatures and one for locations?), but now I want to. And now I want to go binge watch all the movies...



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