Book Unhaul – Round Three

And here I bring you my third unhaul of the summer. Considering I never really get rid of books, I’m doing exceptionally well I’d say!

They are all for sale on my depop shop, but if you’re interested but don’t have depop, feel free to leave a comment or message me on Instagram (@bookographic) or Twitter (@nats_cotterill).

  • Ketchup Clouds – Annabel Pitcher
  • My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece – Annabel Pitcher
  • Ashes – Ilsa J. Bick
  • One Day – David Nicholls
  • A Long Way Down – Nick Hornby
  • After the Quake – Haruki Murakami
  • Relativity – Antonia Hayes
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom
  • Legend, Prodigy, and Champion – Marie Lu
  • The Girl With All the Gifts – M. R. Carey
  • The Bookshop – Penelope Fitzgerald
  • Orbiting Jupiter – Gary D. Schmidt
  • The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer – Michelle Hodkin
  • Zac & Mia – A. J. Betts
  • The Letter – Katheryn Hughes
  • The Woman Who Went to Bed For a Year – Sue Townsend

 

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Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

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Genre: YA Contemporary

Publication Date: September 1st 2015 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Format: Purchased paperback.

Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.

(From goodreads.com)


This book was just- Ugh. It was amazing. It completely blew me away. I really, really appreciated that it wasn’t a cancer story, not that cancer stories aren’t good! But I find if a book mentions illness, that illness is cancer (I’m talking about physical illnesses, not mental!) and it’s getting kind of boring and very repetitive. As I said, I really enjoy books like The Fault in Our Stars, Zac and Mia and so on, but it’s nice to have a change. After all, there are so many other illnesses out there unfortunately, and other people need books to relate to.

I guess that’s why I loved this book so much. When Maddy’s mum says mentions how immune systems are complex and difficult to predict etc, I could have cheered (I did take a photo of the page for future reference – but that’s because I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered to get up and fetch my tabs from the other side of the room…). Somebody gets it. So many people think that if you’re fit and healthy then your immune system is fine and if you have a deficiency then you take supplements to fix the problem but this book recognises it’s not always that simple. And I am so so grateful. There are so many ways one’s immune system can turn against them – Nicola Yoon covered one way, and that’s good enough for me. That, and she raises awareness about rare diseases. I honestly couldn’t ask for a better message in a book.

I also loved the characters in this book. They were all so different – Carla being Mexican, Maddy being half African-American and Japanese (if I remember correctly… Awkward moment when I’m wrong!) There are no stereotypical characters and I loved it. They all had their own quirks and something individual and interesting about their characters too, which was great as it added a depth to not just their characters but the story too. I think that what makes this book stand out is the way that it goes against pretty much every ‘norm’ for YA contemporary novels featuring an illness of some sort and a romance.

Aesthetically this book is incredible. The cover is absolutely stunning – there’s no other word for it and inside there are graphs, notes, emails – loads of things that make it interactive and different. I personally love books that contain things like emails and notes and are presented in an alternative way. They draw me in more than regular books do, and they’re really effective ways of getting in content that would bore the reader if simply written out in a long paragraph. They also really kept the story flowing and it never really got to a slow part where I felt I had to keep reading – I wanted to keep reading. So I did. I ignored (probably – almost definitely) everyone (except maybe the dogs and shouts asking if I wanted a cup of tea – who says no to tea?) and read it in a day. It was that good. In fact, I think it was within like, eight or ten hours or something.

The one problem I had with this book was its ending. You probably know what I’m about to say. The ending itself was great; super cute, adorable and just one of those feel-good endings. But it was rushed. A few more pages and there would be no criticisms of this book whatsoever. I’m not asking for many extra pages – maybe twenty? Just enough to round everything off and finish it up and left the reader feeling bliss. Because I felt (slightly) disappointed. I couldn’t bask in the glory of the ending, and it was a sad thing. However, what actually happened in the ending was so shocking and intriguing and as a reader I really felt as Maddy would have felt – angry when she was angry, hurt when she was hurt, happy when she was happy and so on. For the reader to feel what a character is feeling is something most books try to do, but only some do completely successfully, and this was one of those successful ones.

Seriously though, if you haven’t read this, stop reading my review and go and read it. I still haven’t recovered from how amazing it was.

Rating: (Need I say?) 5/5 stars (Nope, I’m not deducting anything for the end, because the rest more than made up for it).

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Can we please just take a minute to appreciate this cover? It’s so beautiful.

Ketchup Clouds – Annabel Pitcher

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Genre: YA, Contemporary, Romance

First Published: November 2012 by Orion

Zoe Collins has a dark and terrible secret that she dares confess to no one. But the day she hears of a criminal on death row who knows all about secrets. And lies. And betrayal. Desperate to confide in someone, Zoe picks up a pen.

These are the letters that she wrote. 


I want to start by saying I loved Annabel Pitcher’s debut novel My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece. However I did not love this one nearly as much.

The main thing that struck me was the that narrator of this novel spoke / wrote in an extremely juvenile manner. This is also prominent in My Sister. The difference being that the narrator of My Sister is a five year old, whereas in Ketchup Clouds she’s supposed to be a teenager (something I struggled with until GCSEs (I think) / school was mentioned and I finally registered that actually she’s older than she sounds). This style ruined this book for me, if I’m honest, as I found it difficult to take Zoe, the narrator, seriously.

I also found this novel irritating in many ways. First of all, there is the secrecy. I understand that this is part of the story – she doesn’t want to say anything that would incriminate her. However this was just frustrating when reading it. She kept hinting at what she’d done, but it didn’t become clear until the novel was nearly finished and the lead up had been drawn out as much as it could have been. I dislike novels that keep dragging out but hinting at key events though – I remember there was another one that I read not too long ago (but I can’t remember which one it was for the life of me – typical) and I found it irritating too! It’s just something that I can’t take to in books.

I just didn’t like Zoe that much either. I found her too immature, almost childish, not in the way she acted particularly. I don’t know, I can’t really explain it! But there was a juvenile element that I think was prominent because of the narrative voice.

Sometimes I think an epistolary novel can be really successful, and nothing is lost from the story. But I felt a lot was held back due to this form throughout this book – things that could have been included and not ruined the secretive feel (which, although I didn’t particularly enjoy this aspect, I realise that it is part of the story). I did like the different idea of the letters being addressed to someone she doesn’t know however, as this did mean that I could learn more about Zoe, but at the same time she was a very unreliable narrator as for one thing she started by saying she’d given a false name… Leading me, as the reader, to question what part of the story she is telling the ‘truth’ (obviously it’s fiction, but you get what I mean!).

As I mentioned, I felt that the storyline had been dragged out a lot before the ‘event’ is revealed. Thus I found the pace too slow for me, but I do prefer books with a quicker pace as I find it difficult to pick up books where things move slowly or very little happens.

The title has very little relevance to the novel as well. The reference is in relation to her youngest sibling (Dot) and something she does that has very little consequence (I believe) in the novel. Although I think that the title is intriguing, I think that there are so many other, better options. But that’s just personal opinion and I bet many people who have read this book see relevance in that small event and as a result think the title suitable and perfect for the novel.

I think, however, I’d gotten myself too excited to read this book as I’d loved My Sister Lives on the Mantelpiece so much, and it let me down. Maybe if I had read this one first I’d have enjoyed it more. I do have a friend who has read this and she really enjoyed it, and it wasn’t a bad book; it just wasn’t to my taste to be honest. I will read more of Annabel Pitcher’s novels when they are released (and when I have money to purchase them!), this hasn’t put me off. But maybe next time I’ll open one with lower expectations than I did Ketchup Clouds.

Rating: 3/5 (I didn’t hate it – I just felt let down by it).

Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Jesse Andrews

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Genre: YA, Contemporary, Humour

First published: March 1st 2012 by Amulet Books

Up until senior year, Greg has maintained total social invisibility. He only has one friend, Earl, and together they spend their time—when not playing video games and avoiding Earl’s terrifying brothers— making movies, their own versions of Coppola and Herzog cult classics. Greg would be the first one to tell you his movies are f*@$ing terrible, but he and Earl don’t make them for other people. Until Rachel.

Rachel has leukaemia, and Greg’s mom gets the genius idea that Greg should befriend her. Against his better judgment and despite his extreme awkwardness, he does. When Rachel decides to stop treatment, Greg and Earl must abandon invisibility and make a stand. It’s a hilarious, outrageous, and truthful look at death and high school by a prodigiously talented debut author.

(from goodreads.com)


The cover and premise had me so excited for this book, I mean, LOOK AT THE COLOURS (Yes, I’ve used the picture I posted on Instagram because I loved how it turned out). How many books are this colourful? I don’t think there’s a colour that isn’t used (unless you’re really picky and start naming shades… Don’t be that person…). I also love books that have a similar premise (i.e. kid with cancer / illness) not in a morbid way, they’re normally profound and brilliant. For example, I loved The Fault in our Stars and I also loved Zac and Mia (review here).

Unfortunately I did not love this one.

It was okay. I liked parts. I particularly liked the structure of it – the use of scripts and the aesthetic both on the inside and outside of this book. I did also, however, find the character of Greg irritating, and Earl just rude. Rachel seemed nice enough, there just wasn’t enough of her in the book, it was very much Greg talking about himself.

I didn’t like the narrative voice. As I’ve said, I don’t like Greg. Okay, I completely understand that some of the things he says are probably true (in other words they’re the things that everybody thinks and nobody wants to say) but I just found his lack of empathy for Rachel irritating. At points it was like he wasn’t even trying. Like I get him not treating her like she’s about to break etc but instead of complaining about having to see her he could at least have been a bit more cheerful for her. Even Earl was nicer than Greg at points and I found Earl to be quite rude most of the time, as he showed pretty much everyone no respect.

Also, I didn’t find this book funny. I can probably count on one hand the amount of jokes that I laughed at. Reading the reviews on goodreads I do realise that a lot of people did find it hilarious, I just really didn’t. I think that may have been because Greg was grating on my nerves so anything he said just annoyed me though! I was expecting it to be humorous because of what people had been saying about it and I was disappointed when I found a lot of the jokes to just be silly comments. If that makes sense.

I felt that the plot lacked something as well. It wasn’t that it was a terrible plot at all (Jesse Andrews’ writing I  found to be very good and the plot was interesting), I just felt that it was missing something. Like there could have been more and it wouldn’t have been too much – it would have made it more interesting. A lot of it was almost the same thing repeated (a lot of the repetition was regarding his film making). I also found it to be quite slow paced, which, because very little (I felt) happened, bored me in places.

Jesse Andrews, however is clearly a very talented writer. I liked the way that his writing was so realistic – it sounded very much like a teenage boy (one I don’t particularly like) would speak. It was quite brutal, but not aggressive – just honest. I do quite like that in writing. I’m not one to sugar coat things myself (after all, you are reading this not quite complimentary review) but I’m not for rudeness either. Just brutal honesty.

I do believe that the reason I didn’t enjoy this book as much was because I had such high expectations, and when I found it didn’t meet those expectations, I was disappointed and didn’t enjoy the rest. Maybe one day I’ll reread it and enjoy it much more because I know what to expect!

I think I would still recommend this book to some people, despite the fact that I didn’t particularly enjoy it. This is because my sense of humour differs greatly from my friends’ (for example I do not find sitcoms funny in the slightest, I just feel awkward watching them as the actors just seem to be making fools out of themselves – but that’s just me, most of my friends find sitcoms hilarious). Back to the point. What I’m saying is that my sense of humour differs from the majority and therefore the majority would probably find this novel humorous and really enjoy it, which is why I’d recommend it. It’s also a super-quick read for a day where you’re doing nothing! And who doesn’t want that gorgeous, vibrant cover on their shelf?

Rating: 3 / 5.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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Genre: YA, Contemporary, LGBT fiction

First Published: February 21st 2012 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.


This cover is beautiful, the characters are beautiful, the writing is beautiful. This entire book is beautiful.

I don’t know where to start with this book. There are a thousand words and not one does it justice. There is a reason why the cover is covered with awards (though it’s kind of a shame because the cover is so stunning!). It was just amazing.

Taking a moment to think about it, there is not really a plot to this novel. This is not a bad thing. It flowed better than many books I’ve read with well thought out, detailed plots. This book is simple: Two, completely different characters on a journey of self-discovery. Nothing more is needed.

I adored both Aristotle and Dante. Okay, I know that I say “the characters were likeable” or something similar a lot but no. This is different. I wanted to give them hugs and tell them both everything will be alright and sit and chat and chill and watch the stars with them both. (Why are they only fictional?!) They were so different, yet similar, and I loved them both.

I put off buying this book for ages, I don’t know why. I regret it. I read this in less than a day and loved and cherished every poetic word on every single page. It wasn’t particularly fast paced, but it wasn’t slow either – because there isn’t really a plot it just flowed and I didn’t take note of the story pace. I just read.

I loved the focus on family that featured throughout this novel, and also the way Dante’s family accepted Ari even though he had a rougher background and Ari’s family accepted Dante. The love was so clear and honest and I wish that more books would include such caring family relationships because it was a pleasant change from reading about broken families or parents that don’t pay attention to their kids (not neglecting them, just not exactly showering them in affection either).

I must admit, when I first started and realised that it was written from Aristotle’s perspective I was surprised and wondered how it would work well. I think you may be able to tell that I loved this book by now and yes, it worked. It was so much better than I originally anticipated, but so was the story (although I have no idea what I was expecting!).

The LGBT theme throughout this novel is done well. It is not the sole focus of the book, as so many books with LGBT themes focus only on the relationship, whereas this focuses on the individuals and friendship, rather than love. It’s not ‘in your face’ for want of a better description – it’s subtle and successful. A lot of themes can be very overpowering (such as illness, death and grief), not just this one, and sometimes subtle and hidden is better than obvious. That’s not to say that keeping these themes obvious is not a) important and b) a bad thing. This just made a great change.

I feel like I’m running out of words to say about this book (I had very few to begin with). I would heartily recommend this to whoever wants a heartwarming contemporary about two completely different guys, their friendship and loving families.

110 percent 5/5 stars.

Extraordinary Means – Robyn Schneider

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Genre: Contemporary, YA, Romance

First published:  May 26th 2015 by Katherine Tegen Books

When he’s sent to Latham House, a boarding school for sick tennis, Lane thinks his life may as well be over.

But when he meets Sadie and her friends – a group of eccentric troublemakers – he realises that maybe getting sick is just the beginning. That illness doesn’t have to define you, and that falling in love is its own cure. 

Extraordinary means is a darkly funny story about true friendships, ill-fated love and the rare miracle of second chances. 


This book sums up society’s reaction to illness perfectly. Like with the ebola crisis, the TB outbreak in this novel is treated with fear and isolation. This novel is set in the modern day and is the story of Lane, a regular teenager who studies a lot and suddenly becomes ill with a drug resistant strain of tuberculosis, or TB. He is then sent to an isolation unit in the middle of the countryside so that he, along with the other teenagers there, cannot infect the general public.

I realise that this sounds apocalyptic, like it could take the route that the whole world becomes infected and turn into flesh eating zombies or something. But it doesn’t. It takes a realistic look at TB, at the effect it can have on those ill with it and the public view. I liked the way that this novel focused more on the relationships Lane builds at Latham House, rather than him being ill with TB. This is why I like YA contemporary novels; they take serious issues and deal with them in a way that retains humour and fun. Some novels could take the issue and dwell on it and drag it out.

However this book doesn’t and you get to see Lane’s comic side. All of the characters were likeable in this novel, even the ones you weren’t supposed to really like, you liked. I particularly liked the way that every character was different – in the way that they looked, their hobbies and their personalities. Robyn Schneider did not fall into the trap of making characters really similar, which made it so much more enjoyable and interesting. That characters were normal and well, human. So many authors create ‘perfect’ characters with ideal looks but this isn’t the case. I do think part of the reason that the characters are so normal is that they are all so different.

I also loved the writing style of this novel. I’ve read Robyn Schneider’s other novel too and loved it. She brings the characters and the locations to life and this was something I particularly liked. Personally, it’s difficult to imagine being in the situation that the characters are in – under constant scrutiny etc – yet Schneider makes it understandable and clear.

This book has a quick pace, with a lot of things happening. Many of these things are completely unexpected (I won’t say what they are because of spoilers!) and they kept the story interesting and flowing. A lot of the things that did occur were things that in any ‘normal’ situation would be seen as boring, I guess. But given the characters’ situation they added to the feel of them just wanting something they cannot have because of being ill.

Throughout the novel, the narrator alternates every chapter. You get Lane and Sadie’s perspectives, which are both completely different as they are completely different people and have had different experiences of TB. I found this drew me further into the novel as you got two differing views which both varied as the novel progressed.

Again, something I feel that I shouldn’t mention (but of course I will) is how much I love the cover design. I particularly like covers with tree imagery – I don’t know why, I’m just weird like that. This cover (the UK paperback edition) uses trees in the shape of lungs (as shown in the picture!) and I think this is such a lovely image and perfectly relevant to the book as the woods and lungs both feature strongly throughout.

Overall I would totally recommend this book. I love the work of Robyn Schneider and look forward to more books that she produces as they are fantastic.

Rating: 5/5.

Challenging myself?

I don’t know about you, but I actually enjoy challenging myself. One way in which I like to do this is reading books that I find intimidating… Whether this is because of their length, language or genre, I like to have something that pushes me outside of my comfort zone, even if it takes me forever to read!

So I currently have a couple of books on the go that I have been reading for a while now. The first is Les Misérables by Victor Hugo and this is a challenge (for me) because of its length (it’s over 1200 pages with tiny font!) and also the language is quite old fashioned. I’m about 200 pages in now and I’ve been reading it for like, three years! But it takes me ages to read just a couple of pages and I don’t pick it up that often in fairness. I’ve wanted to read this book since forever – I absolutely adore the musical (I went to see it two years ago (I think) and I had wanted to see it for as long as I can remember). It’s so interesting to read the book because there is so much detail that the musical / film simply cannot include (such as Fantine’s background). I really want to finish this book by the time I finish university (Four years – I have one year of school left before I will hopefully be going to uni) so I’m not putting too much pressure on myself! I am loving this book, it’s just slow going.

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The second book is L’étranger by Albert Camus. This is the french and original version of The Outsider. I have studied french from year one to AS level (year twelve). (No I’m not fluent – year one-six was, for the most part, repeating a load of vocab; great for travelling and finding your way, not so great for language proficiency – but I’m not complaining! My teacher was lovely). Although I really was not a fan of the AS / A2 course – hence why I have dropped it – I still want to improve my french. I bought this before I started my AS course when I was contemplating languages at university (during that unfortunate phase where I was questioning what I wanted to study – my mind is certain once again). However although I now know for certain that I want to study English it doesn’t mean I want to give up with languages as I still want to learn Spanish and improve my french. I’ve read very little of this novel so far, as I keep putting it off, but I do want to pick it up again soon.

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Another book is Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I’m 33% of the way through on my kindle and I’m really enjoying it) which was a push for me as I’d been put off Dickens due to not enjoying Oliver Twist (although I love the musical film). Also I have recently begun picking up books in the fantasy genre; something I’d never really considered, but I’m really, really enjoying.

Have you picked up a book despite it intimidating you? I really wanted to read these books before but put them off because they scared me a little… Have you done the same?

The Wrath and the Dawn – Renée Ahdieh

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Genre: Fantasy, YA, Historical fiction, romance

First published: May 12th 2015 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

 One life to one dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vow vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this place of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Inspired by A Thousand and One Nights, The Wrath and the Dawn is a sumptuous and enthralling read from beginning to end. 


Oh my. This book is so unlike anything I have read before, so I was apprehensive before reading it. Why? I do not know. It was amazing. Considering I don’t really read fantasy I loved this book. Everything about it was incredible. I need to stop rambling and start reviewing…

Renée Ahdieh is some sort of genius. The writing in this novel is perfect – her writing style is almost poetic, in a way – it’s beautiful. I was completely at ease reading this book, seeing as it’s set in a world / place so different from what I’m used to reading (being mainly a contemporary reader). I sometimes find it harder to connect with a character when the novel is written in third person, but not with this. It was like you could understand the reasons that each character had for his actions without needing them explained in detail.

Having never read and not even knowing the basic premise of A Thousand and One Nights (something I now want to read) didn’t create an issue, which I was worried about. In fact, I had no idea whatsoever as to what to expect and so I went into this book with an open mind. I did find the world enthralling, the way the souk (outdoor market), the palace and all of the locations were described created vivid images in my mind’s eye. Colour features a lot in this novel, and I didn’t realise this until afterwards. Shahrzad’s outfits are always vibrant and I could picture them clearly and I want them – they sound so beautiful!

The plot of this novel was clearly well thought out too – a lot happened, yet it was not all crammed in like some books end up being when the author wants to include too much stuff. No, this was a fast-paced intriguing plot that kept me interested throughout. It included magic where magic worked well with the plot, yet it didn’t include it unnecessarily either. I didn’t find myself getting lost when I was reading either; I knew what was happening, to which characters and in which location. Always a good thing when you get confused as easily as I do! (This is probably why I read mostly contemporaries – they’re set in a world that I know so I avoid any confusion that a fantasy world may create!)

The characters throughout this novel were likeable too, which was a good thing. Shahrzad I could imagine getting on some people’s nerves, but I really liked her and her feisty attitude. Also Khalid, although depicted as a monster, I liked him; there was something about his character that I couldn’t quite place, but I felt that there was a sort of underlying softness about him. I don’t know – I can’t really explain it!

There is something about this book that I want to talk about, something that probably shouldn’t be mentioned because this is a review of the book and writing, not the aesthetic. But this book is gorgeous. Sorry, but the cover is absolutely beautiful and at the beginning of each new chapter the first page has a border and it is just so elegant this book! The cover design (and the chapters) completely fit the location and the theme of the book and as books go – this is one of the most beautiful I own. I know, I know, but it is stunning.

If you’re still questioning whether I’d recommend this (I’d go back and read the review – the answer is in the first paragraph)… YES. Oh my days this book was amazing and it exceeded my expectations in so many ways. I can’t sing its praises enough (and not just because I can’t sing). It was captivating and magical (literally – it included magic) and just perfect. The ending was just- The only bad thing I can think about it is that the sequel is not out until 2016… A definite pre-order – I need it in my life as soon as possible.

(Easily a) 5 / 5.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

IMG_6231Genre: Contemporary, fiction

First published: May 30th 2013 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons

What if you grew up to realise that your father had used your childhood as an experiment?

Rosemary doesn’t talk very much, and about certain things she’s silent. She had a sister, Fern, her whirlwind other half, who vanished from her life in circumstances she wishes she could forget. And it’s been ten years since she last saw her beloved older brother Lowell.

Now at college, Rosemary starts to see that she can’t go forward without going back, back to the time when, aged five she was sent away from home to her grandparents and returned to find Fern gone.  


I picked this book up solely because of the reviews. And I liked the cover (don’t judge me like I judge books by their covers – I do, we all do, we just deny it). I knew absolutely nothing about it, apart from the short amount I’d read on the back cover (see above). I found the blurb (I really hate that word for some reason) intriguing and so finally picked it up one day in Waterstones.

The writing in this novel was incredible. Sometimes I found that the story was being dragged out but I didn’t want to stop reading because of the quality of the writing and I still felt drawn into the tale. Karen Joy Fowler has a way with words that makes her characters sound normal, whatever their circumstances. Yes, the writing does come across as quite blunt at times, however it is a novel written in first person and Rosemary is quite often a blunt character; she says what she wants to say and nothing more.

The novel is written in several parts, each containing at least one major event in her life. I didn’t really see the significance of the parts and to be honest, I still don’t really understand the reasoning behind them. I guess that if I reread the novel and considered it I’d realise a pattern though.

One thing that really ought to be mentioned regarding this novel is that the research behind it is clearly thorough. I don’t know what is fiction and what is fact because I am not really interested in science and psychology is not an area I’ve really ever thought about (except in a philosophy lesson when we studied Freud as a criticism to Kant’s moral argument, and psychoanalysis is not covered in this book). It’s difficult to talk about this novel though without including spoilers (which I won’t do) as there are so many plot twists and to even give a hint would ruin the entire thing.

Which leads me to talk about the plot (or not, for fear of spoilers). There are so many events in this novel that you just wouldn’t guess. Normally I would say that I’m quite good at guessing what may happen next, but with this novel, no. Nope. Did not guess. It took me completely and utterly by surprise, which was good as I haven’t been so surprised at a novel for a long, long time.

The characters I liked, although I can see why some people would hate them; they were the kind of people you either love or hate. I disliked the father though, at first for reasons I could not say – I just disliked him! Also the mother in parts I found could be irritating. However Rosemary I particularly liked, she’s an honest person and I always find that if a character is honest I like them. If they try to lie to themselves or someone else, they automatically get on my nerves.

It is quite a slow placed novel, despite the fact that a lot happens throughout it. I’m not entirely sure how to explain it. However, I did enjoy it and one way of describing it would be “thought-provoking” because it made me think… A lot. It gives you insight into something you don’t really want to know about (I won’t say because, well, spoilers) but at the same time when reading I just wanted to know more, I wanted to read the stories. Even if the tales included are made up for the benefit of the novel, there is an element of truth to them; similar things will have happened and probably will continue to happen. The main events of this story are unique or at least very uncommon, but some of the smaller events, mainly those surrounding her brother, are almost certainly the opposite.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

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Genre: Contemporary, Mental Illness, Alternative.

Target age: Adult.

First Published: May 9th 2013 by HarperCollins

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‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’
There are books you can’t stop reading, which keep you up all night.
There are books which let us into the hidden parts of life and make them vividly real.
There are books which, because of the sheer skill with which every word is chosen, linger in your mind for days.
The Shock of the Fall is all of these books.
The Shock of the Fall is an extraordinary portrait of one man’s descent into mental illness. It is a brave and groundbreaking novel from one of the most exciting new voices in fiction.

This was a different book for me; normally I enjoy the simpler, less gritty novels. However something about this grabbed my attention and I picked it up. I read it on holiday and I think because I was relaxed it helped as it could be a hard-going novel if you’re stressed. On the other hand, I thought the storyline, although simple, had its fair share of plot twists to keep it interesting, though it was the alternative narration style that I particularly liked. It is completely different to any other book that I have read, which is why I took to it – I like alternative, experimental styles of writing. Also, it enabled me to understand the reader’s location as he didn’t give a huge amount of information and thus this means I could understand the narrator’s emotion. This book was hard-hitting, but it helped me understand and emphasise with those who suffer from mental conditions, as it is written in first person narrative and it taught me a lot about what it is like to live with mental health issues. The narrator is an interesting character and I felt as though I got to know him extremely well, which is something I particularly enjoyed, as I feel that if you can get to know a character really well, then the book is so much more readable – and enjoyable too! I’ve already recommended this book to someone who I know enjoys reads that are slightly alternative to your average novel and I would be sure to do so again, as this really was a great book.

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