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).

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.

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

What I Read on Holiday

Whenever I go on holiday to somewhere sunny (that makes it sound like a regular occurrence – I wish!) I like to take books that are lighthearted and not too heavy. Having returned from Cyprus in the early hours of this morning, I thought that I would share the books that I read whilst I was there.

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The Spectacular Now – Tim Tharp

This is the story of Sutter, who lives in the ‘now’, drinks a lot and has had numerous girlfriends and Aimee, who is the complete opposite. Sutter decides to ‘help’ Aimee and they end up in a relationship, to keep it brief. I was probably the most excited to read this book out of all of them, however it turns out that this is my least favourite due to the narration style reminding me of that in ‘The Catcher in the Rye’, which I greatly disliked. The narrator appears to me as quite self-obsessed and it irritated me, as well as making me feel desperately sorry for some of the other characters. I think that this is partially why it reminds me of Catcher, because the narrator is very impersonal and spontaneous, moving from one thing to another with a careless attitude. I didn’t feel that the ending really completed the novel at all and as a result left me feeling slightly disappointed more than anything. I felt as though there were a lot of ends left open which the author could have tied up and told the reader what happened because I didn’t feel as though the novel had actually finished! Overall, this book left me feeling more confused than I would have liked and asking questions that I felt should have been answered in the novel. However, despite my personal distaste for the narrator and his attitudes, the fact that this book isn’t too sad or heavy does make it a good summer read if you don’t want to have to focus too much.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour – Morgan Matson

The title implies what this book is about; Amy’s mother moves from California to Conneticut leaving Amy alone to move once the school year has finished. The original plan is for Amy to fly however in order to get the car across she ends up having to drive across  the USA. Amy doesn’t drive (for reasons that are disclosed in the book and to say would be a spoiler) and so her mum enlists the help of family friend Roger (who is a year or two older than Amy) to drive. They decide that they don’t like her mum’s planned route and so make their own route, taking them through several states. This book is such a great summer read as it talks about travelling which makes it a perfect to read on holiday. There are images scattered through the novel that are part of the diary Amy writes in which helped to keep track of their journey and made the book extremely easy to follow. The characters were both likeable. Yes, Amy could be a little frustrating at times but other than that it was a good story, especially on holiday. There are parts that are slightly heavier but to be honest, they added to the storyline and so made the book more interesting. The one thing that did irritate me slightly was the fact that some of the main information (trying not to give spoilers here) about why Amy doesn’t drive is not given until near the end of the novel. This is a good feature as the reader really wants to find out, however I did find it rather annoying at times because I just wanted to know! But then again, it did has its desired purpose and made me want to read on, so I guess it worked!

Anna and the French Kiss – Stephanie Perkins

Anna finds herself being forced to move to a boarding school in Paris for her final year of school. Here she finds herself feeling isolated due to the language barrier and not knowing anyone. However she quickly forms friendships, in particular with Étienne St. Clair. I would have to say that this is most definitely chick-lit and very much a romance. It is very ‘sweet’ and although I’m not always into books which are solely romantic (usually there has to be some underly ‘deep’ theme). Obviously there are a few twists and turns throughout the novel, it’s not completely upbeat and positive throughout, though these are not frequent and therefore I found this book to be really enjoyable when sitting, relaxing and doing nothing! Being set in Paris, this novel has a slightly exotic feel and made me desperately want to visit again (I fell in love with the city when I visited it last year). Some of the places mentioned I had been to so I was able to relate more and it seemed even more real. This is one of those books that I would reserve for holidays and times when you want to escape stress because it is a really easy and relaxing read. Of the four books that I read, I’d say that this book is the most lighthearted and the easiest read and therefore the most summery. I found it easy to like all of the characters (except the ones that you are supposed to dislike) which made the novel far more enjoyable as it is always good to have a novel where you aren’t frustrated about not liking a character you’re supposed to!

Ask the Passengers – A. S. King

This is the story of Astrid, who is discovering and questioning her sexuality. She finds solace in talking to the passengers on the planes that fly overhead as she feels that they do not judge her. Some of the characters in this book were too easy to dislike, although I got the feeling that I should actually like them. Dee, for example. At times she comes across as a really sweet person (nearer the end mainly) whereas as other points she shows Astrid little respect and I found that irritating. Astrid’s mother is also one of those characters who instantly got on my nerves, although I think this is supposed to be the case. However, I actually liked Astrid herself and though she could come across as whiny and a bit selfish at times, she also was portrayed as honest and down to earth, making her a relatable character. This book has a central focus on philosophy, as that is Astrid’s favourite class. As I actually study it myself I understood some of the references made in the novel, but I did find that they were sufficiently explained in the simplest way. I kind of wish that I’d read it before my exams as its summaries would have been so useful! I’m not sure that I would read this again if I’m honest, mainly because of my dislike for some of the other characters, however for a summer read I did find this a really good choice because it wasn’t too serious, despite the events that in reality would be deemed so. Having said all of that, I did enjoy this book and read it pretty quickly because I didn’t want to put it down. There are a large number of plot twists throughout the novel to keep you interested which is something that I would consider extremely important, especially if the characters are slightly lacking.

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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Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

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Genre: Young Adult – Chick Lit.

Target Age: About my age, 16 years old.

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Summary: It’s about a girl going to college and having to find her own person as before she used to do everything with her twin. Cath, the main character, loves to write fan fiction and her roommate and friends help Cath to become herself.

My opinion: I really, really enjoyed this book! It was a great book to pick up and read a chapter of when I came home from school or to take a break from homework as the chapters weren’t too long. Cath is relatable and I immediately liked her, which made the book so much nicer to read. I’d had my eye on this book for a while as it really appealed to me so when I finally got it and couldn’t read it as I had no free time I was gutted. Then half term came and I was so happy as I could read it (despite the fact that I was supposed to read a “proper book” for english lit… oh well!). If any young adult is looking for a relaxing book to curl up with then this is a must read as it’s lighthearted but not too shallow that it gets irritating (well I didn’t find it irritating anyway). There were plenty of twists and turns to keep me interested and wanting to know what happens next. The only thing that would have made it even better would have been a little more emotion, but that’s just me! Not that it was totally heartless, because it did make me laugh and feel sympathetic etc towards the characters. Just a little more emotion – because I love immersing myself emotionally in a novel. Now to read ‘Eleanor and park’ by Rainbow Rowell too! Plus, can I just add how much I love the colour of the cover? Green is my all time favourite – as you can see from the pillow and duvet cover – my room is green, white with a bit of pink! So I think one of the reasons I wanted this book so much was because of the cover – I know, “Don’t judge a book by its cover” but this was a good judgement, so it’s acceptable…!

Rating: 4/5

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