Book Reviews





Books to make time for: Part 3

Part 3 of my "Books to make time for" feature is here!

The third book I'd like to feature is: Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli. It's a book I have always remembered since reading it when I was younger.

What is it about?

Here's the blurb. I dont really want to tell you any more as it would ruin it!

She’s as magical as the desert sky. As mysterious as her own name. Nobody knows who she is or where she’s from. But everyone loves her for being different. And she captures Leo’s heart with just one smile. STARGIRL is a classic of our time that celebrates being true to ourselves and the thrill of first love. A life-changing read that touches souls of all ages.

And it really does, y'know... touch the soul and all that. STARgirl is just a lovely, lovely book. And totally an off-beat choice for me considering all that pink gushiness! That just goes to prove how good it is!

Why should you make time for it?

Apart from being a great story (and a wonderfully designed cover!) STARgirl is well written, funny, sad, suspenseful, mysterious and lush. More of a girl's book this one, but I feel ok about marginalising to get it out there! STARgirl is a book that will make you want to be a better person. Guaranteed. (and at once disclaimed. I make no promises but you have a bit of a cold heart if you don't feel like being just a little better for reading it!)

You might like this if you like...

YA fiction, romance with a twist, individuality

This book is similar to:

You know, I actually have no idea...

Where can you get it?

Find it at Amazon

Heathcliff - scary as!

Last night I watched an ITV adaptation of Wuthering Heights... It was very good. I like Wuthering Heights... It's ridiculously dark and it amuses me all the time that it's regarded as a romance and not a horror. Heathcliff's a frickin' nutcase, not a loveable rogue! Have to say, Tom Hardy played him brilliantly. I was scared. Actually scared. When he confronts poor Nelly on his return, all gentlemanned up, and demands she "SPEAK! SPEEEAK!" oh my, I think I'd have dropped my apron of apples and broken down crying! No offense intended, but that thick Yorkshire accent has a certain... menace to it!
I spent my lunchbreak today reading some essays and character studies of Heathcliff. Partly because I'm a terrible geek and partly because, like I said, he's a psycho and I'm amazed girls go weak at the knees for him. (What are you thinking Cathy?!)

It is, in fact, the exact same odd idealisation that seems to surround Edward Cullen. Except Heathcliff will actually kill you and Ed will just watch you sleep all the time and maybe lick your face a bit.

So within my hour of reading and research I kept coming across the "Byronic hero". Great phrase! Not ironic or bionic, BYRONIC! yes yes, I know it's in reference to Byron, but imagine if it was a mechanical wit-bot! That might actually go some towards explaining Heathcliff's frightening tendancies. HE'S A MACHINE!!!!

Sorry, I'll be sensible. Byronic heroes then. What are they? Well, let me tell you... Wikipedia puts it something like this:

The Byronic hero is an idealised but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of English Romantic poet Lord Byron. It was characterised by Lady Caroline Lamb, later a lover of Byron's, as being "mad, bad, and dangerous to know"

Here's the character set:
  • Arrogant
  • Cunning and able to adapt
  • Cynical
  • Disrespectful of rank and privilege
  • Emotionally conflicted, bipolar, or moody
  • Having a distaste for social institutions and norms
  • Having a troubled past or suffering from an unnamed crime
  • Intelligent and perceptive
  • Jaded, world-weary
  • Mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
  • Seductive and sexually attractive
  • Self-critical and introspective
  • Self-destructive
  • Socially and sexually dominant
  • Sophisticated and educated
  • Struggling with integrity
  • Treated as an exile, outcast, or outlaw

If I ever write a book, these are completely the types of people I would write about. Hell, I want to be a Bronte. What with Rochester and Heathcliff Byronic-ing about, their worlds must have been high-drama, high-emotion, high-intensity. Every day! So long my average life and hello mysticism.

But here's the thing. If I write about these characters, they'll be listed somewhere alongside Hannibal Lecter and the Phantom of the Opera. Because, have no qualms about it, that state of mind, with all its intensity, is NOT healthy. These people aren't lovers. They are the characters that make the greatest gothic horror. I'll throw in a few ghosts for good measure, but I will always fail to understand how Heathcliff, Cullen, Dorian Gray and Frollo can ever be figureheads for romanticism. Or maybe girls are just more screwwed than I thought!


    Getting past Young Adult Fiction's recent bad rep

    Yesterday I downloaded 2 of the books from my wishlist (Forgotten and Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini) both of which are categorised as Young Adult fiction.
    I have quite a soft spot for this genre. Sometimes you just dont want to work at what you're reading. Sometimes, after an epic novel full of ground-breaking literature, you just want something to enjoy without thinking. To me, YA fiction is like sticking on a Ben Stiller movie after watching Requiem for a Dream. Sometimes, you just need a reprieve.

    However, despite this, I still felt the need to justify to myself why I had just bought these. It's kind of strange, having to question your own desires, and it got me to thinking "why?". Why did I hesitate? Why did I feel that tiny hint of embarassment? Twilight probably had a little bit to do with it. Before that book came out I wouldn't have thought twice about picking up a YA novel, and now I'm worried I'm just an annoying fan-girl when I pick up anything vaguely supernatural. The Maze Runner also had a little bit of a role to play. It tried so hard to be something it just wasn't, and I'm pretty sure there's a lot of other books out there "jumping on a bandwagon" and riding the trends for The Hunger Games and vampires.

    But I also thought about how unfair all that was. It's awful that I may not pick up a YA novel for fear it's another Twilight. I've read bad adult books, but that hasn't put me off of reading anything else!

    So here is a post about some GREAT young adult fiction that can be enjoyed at any age. Very often you forget YA is the intended audience for a couple of them. I'm determinded to find more of the same:

    The Book Thiefby Markus Zusak

    So many have read this already, so many more need to!

    This one specifically had some great multi-layered story lines. Kids will come back and find it so much deeper years later.

    The Hobbitby J R R Tolkein

    Less complex than Lord Of The Rings, but just as adventurous.

    My personal YA favourite and such a great story.


    My wishlist of books

    This weekend Amazon kinda "clicked" with me. I felt that spark. That little hint of a good relationship beginning to brew between me and my "recommendations" list. (It was short lived, because as soon as I searched for Nike running wear it was thrown off and thought I actually liked exercise. Ha!)

    For that short time though, things were beautiful. Book after book was thrown up and I kept thinking "yes, that sounds interesting, and definately worth a stab in the dark when it falls below a fiver". And so, my wishlist grew... and grew... and now I have enough wishes to fill a wishy library of wishes in my head.

    I thought I'd share with you some of the books, as if you come here looking for a review, you probably have similar taste to me. You might find some of them intriguing yourself. And nothing feels as good as the feeling of recommending a book and getting it right. The only catch here is that I don't know what they're like yet. So don't hold me responsible if you find the writing as (in)credible as Twilight. Disclaimer done. Here's the books:

    The Blue Book
    by A. L. Kennedy

    Elizabeth Barber is crossing the Atlantic by liner with her perfectly adequate boyfriend, Derek, who might be planning to propose. In fleeing the UK – temporarily – Elizabeth may also be in flight from her past and the charismatic Arthur, once her partner in what she came to see as a series of crimes. Together they acted as fake mediums, perfecting the arcane skills practised by effective frauds. 

    Elizabeth finally rejected what once seemed an intoxicating game. Arthur continued his search for the right way to do wrong. He now subsidises free closure for the traumatised and dispossessed by preying on the super-rich. The pair still meet occasionally, for weekends of sexual oblivion, but their affection lacerates as much as it consoles.

    She hadn’t, though, expected the other man on the boat. As her voyage progresses, Elizabeth’s past is revealed, codes slowly form and break as communication deepens. It’s time for her to discover who are the true deceivers and who are the truly deceived.

    What’s more, is the book itself – a fiction which may not always be lying – deceiving the reader? Offering illusions and false trails, magical numbers and redemptive humour, this is a novel about what happens when we are misled and when we are true: an extraordinarily intricate and intimate journey into our minds and hearts undertaken by a writer of great gifts – a maker of wonders.

    Was going to paraphrase that blurb but it was too good. Sounds all twisty-turny and dramatic though, right? 

    Anno Dracula
    by Kim Newman

    It is 1888 and Queen Victoria has remarried, taking as her new consort Vlad Tepes, the Wallachian Prince infamously known as Count Dracula. Peppered with familiar characters from Victorian history and fiction, the novel tells the story of vampire Geneviève Dieudonné and Charles Beauregard of the Diogenes Club as they strive to solve the mystery of the Ripper murders. Anno Dracula is a rich and panoramic tale, combining horror, politics, mystery and romance to create a unique and compelling alternate history.

    Risky... A "popular vampire novel" and to top it, it's got romance. *alarm bells ringing!* Does appeal to the geeky goth in me though.

    Night Waking
    by Sarah Moss

    Historian Anna Bennett has a book to write. She also has an insomniac toddler, a precocious, death-obsessed seven-year-old, and a frequently-absent ecologist husband who has brought them all to Colsay, a desolate island in the Hebrides, so he can count the puffins. Ferociously sleep-deprived, torn between mothering and her desire for the pleasures of work and solitude, Anna becomes haunted by the discovery of a baby's skeleton in the garden of their house. Her narrative is punctuated by letters home, written 200 years before, by May, a young, middle-class midwife desperately trying to introduce modern medicine to the suspicious, insular islanders. The lives of these two characters intersect unexpectedly in this deeply moving but also at times blackly funny story about maternal ambivalence, the way we try to control children, and about women's vexed and passionate relationship with work.

    It's about mothers. Why does this appeal to me? Oh yeah, the creepy death-obsessed kid. I don't condone this as an attractive-reading-material-maker. I probably need some sort of analysis... It does have a touch of the classic gothic novel about it though.

    The Possessions of Doctor Forrest
    by Richard T. Kelly

    Dr Jekyll meets Dr Faustus in this spine-chilling modern-day Gothic fable.

     That's all the blurb says on Amazon. That's all I needed!

    by Cat Patrick

    With the intrigue of Memento and the romance of The Time-Traveller's Wife, Forgotten is the perfect YA novel. Here's the thing about me: I can see the future in flashes, like memories. But my past is a blank. I remember what I'll wear tomorrow, and an argument that won't happen until this afternoon. But I don't know what I ate for dinner last night. I get by with the help of notes, my mom and my best friend Jamie, and the system works ...Until now. Everything's falling apart. Jamie's going of the rails. My mom is lying to me. And I can't see the boy I adore in my future. But today, I love him. And I never want to forget how much ...Forgotten is the story of a girl for whom yesterday is lost, today is an adventure, and tomorrow is a memory. An unforgettable read. 

    Ah, my love of YA comes into play here... And I do like both Memento and the Time Travellers Wife. Kinda sold from the first sentence onwards. However, maybe I should take heed of the lesson learnt from this book

    Ok that's it for now. Let me know if you have read any of these and want to tell me more!