Book Reviews





Feature and Follow Friday - One book for the rest of your life

Feature and Follow is a meme hosted by Parajunkie and Alison Can Read - Go have a look at their blogs! Each week there is a new bookish questions to answer. This week's question is:

 If you could only have ONE BOOK – for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I think it would have to be His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman. (That's not cheating, right? They all make up one book?!)

If that is a slight cheat, I think I would change my answer to The Angel's Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. I think trying to figure out it's narrative would last me the rest of my life!

What would you choose?

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The Lost Titles

Over the years, I have lent out countless copies of books I love. Perhaps rather foolishly, I never kept a central list of who has them, and when/where they went. This has resulted in many occurrences of "ohh, I know what I fancy reading... wait, where is it?" and then a lot mulling over whose hands it had passed into...

Since this started happening more often than I would like(!) I have started to list all of the books that are no longer on my shelf, with the intention of repurchasing them all. My friends and family have fallen in love with these titles so much, I've never seen them again! So, here is a homage to The Lost Titles, and I hope they are just as loved wherever they have ended up!

The Angel's Game

This one is a blessing and a curse. I am SO happy that someone loves Carlos Ruiz Zafon as much as I do,  but since reading The Prisoner of Heaven, I need to go back and read The Angel's Game to find all of the links! This is number 1 on my repurchase list.

Second Glance

I don't mind this book not being on my shelf any more.. but I do mind this exact copy not being there. It had an inscription from a friend who moved away, so I've lost a sentimental book.

The Bridges of Madison County

I feel a bit guilty at having lost track of this, as it wasn't really mine to lend in the first place! It belonged to my nanna, so a replacement for her is very high on the to-buy agenda.

The Hunger Games

I knew as soon as I gave this out that I wouldn't get it back. It was a while before any mention of a film, and it just had that air of a book that needed to be passed on. A few friend links down the chain and I have no idea where it's ended up!

The Hobbit

A bit annoying as it was part of a boxed design set... nevermind!

The Help

I think this is currently making its way through cousins, second cousins and aunts' aunt's third cousins!  Perhaps this is one that might actually find its way back one day ;)

That's all that's on my list so far, but I have a feeling that it's going to keep growing! What books of yours have found their way far from home?

Oi Shakespeare! You're ruining The Future!

Today I read an article about the film Elysium which opened with the point that the phrase "That's what I'm talking about!" is a phrase that wouldn't be used 141 years in the future, and therefore invalidated the vision of the future the director was trying to portray. It then went on to make some more very loose points about why "the future" is not well represented in Hollywood films. (Apparently we can blame this on vests and tattoos.)

However, it is the point about language that hit me most hard, and made me slightly - as someone called it - "peeved". I spent a good two years studying the formation, etymology and trends of words and phrases. I found it fascinating and something I wholly enjoyed. Then came this article and instantly my alarm bells started ringing:

"Hang on!" I thought... "Don't we still use the phrase "All's well that ends well?" - I'm pretty sure that was new in the 1600's!"

A quick Google later, and my theories were confirmed. It's Shakespeare. 

"And what about "Fighting fire with fire"?"

Well, that too, is from Shakespeare.

According to the article, these phrases should have died out before the Bard passed away, quite early in life - so what are they doing rolling off of our tongues in 2013?!

Delve deeper and there is a whole host of sayings and phrases you probably never knew were invented in the time when most of the population didn't bathe more than once a year.

For example;

As luck would have it...
Come what may...
Sets my teeth on edge...
Truth will out...
Wear your heart on your sleeve...

So while we are fighting the fight for original film concepts in the cinema, and encouraging producers to step out of their comfort zones of prequels, sequels and franchises... let's not nit-pick at things that could, actually, be proven plausibly possible, eh? Thank you, I'm done!

(I will also be seeing Elysium this weekend, so may retract this article if it's rubbish! HAHA)

Bookish news from the big and small screens

There have been lots of exciting bookish things happening in the cinema and on television this past week - we've seen the release of The Mortal Instrument's first installment; City of Bones, the beginning of Under The Dome on Channel 5 and new trailer release for The Book Thief!

Although I'm yet to venture to the cinema for City of Bones (and, if I'm honest, I'm not sure whether I will. Unfortunately the casting of Jamie Campbell Bower has really put me off it - sorry!) I have been squealing about The Book Thief a lot and have given Under The Dome a trial run.

Under The Dome seems to be off to a typically "Stephen King" start - in the vein of a lot of his previous TV ventures (Rose Red, for example) - cheesy overacting, terrible script, laughable "horror" and a-typical American stereotypes! However, this is all we come to expect from Stephen King TV adaptations these days! I will be tuning in to the next episode because underneath it all is a very interesting concept (albeit slightly reminiscent of The Simpsons movie); an American town finds itself trapped underneath a dome that has fallen from the sky. How did it get there? Who put it there? What is it? These questions are the ones that will keep me watching. Even though my King-brain has a slight inkling for the inevitability of a ridiculous alien vs. military finale. We'll see!

As for The Book Thief... I have been hotly anticipating this film for ages! I was an emotional wreck at the end of the novel (by Markus Zuzak) and I was really excited when I heard that Geoffrey Rush had been cast as Hans - but I was also slightly disappointed that neither Hans, Liesel nor Rosa were German actors, and I think this is my main disappointment in the trailer. Coming from a German family background myself, I couldn't help but feel the accents were just a bit... weird. The speech seems slowed to the point of unnaturalness for what I can only assume is the ability for non-German kids to hear the words and understand them. It has dulled my excitement just a bit, I must admit. I was also a little disappointed to see that there seems to be no presence of the character of "Death" Which made the novel so unique! However, the film itself looks beautiful and it's one I definitely will be venturing to the cinema to see!

Watch the trailer here!

Have you caught any of the shows/trailers mentioned above? What were your thought?!

Delirium - review

"Symptoms of Amor Deliria Nervosa

PHASE ONE: -preoccupation; difficulty focusing -dry mouth -perspiration, sweaty palms -fits of dizziness and disorientation -reduced mental awareness; racing thoughts; impaired reasoning skills

PHASE TWO: -periods of euphoria; hysterical laughter and heightened energy -periods of despair; lethargy -changes in appetite; rapid weight loss or weight gain -fixation; loss of other interests -compromised reasoning skills; distortion of reality -disruption of sleep patterns; insomnia or constant fatigue -obsessive thoughts and actions -paranoia; insecurity

PHASE THREE (CRITICAL): -difficulty breathing -pain in the chest, throat or stomach -complete breakdown of rational faculties; erratic behavior; violent thoughts and fantasies; hallucinations and delusions

PHASE FOUR (FATAL): -emotional or physical paralysis (partial or total) -death" 

Title: Delirium (#1)
Author: Lauren Oliver
Publisher: Hodder
Buy it: On Amazon


In a world where love is a curable disease, 17 year old Lena counts down the days until her procedure; a process similar to a lobotomy that will prevent her from contracting Amor Deliria Nervosa; love. She has already chosen her Pair - a boy named Brian - a government approved match who she will marry and have 2 children with, by government order, once she has finished college. Everything is going just as Lena knew it would. Everything is plodding along in a very defined, expected pattern towards it's happy ending: knowing she will never suffer from Amora Nervosa Deliria once her cure is administered. Everything until that day will be designed to limit her chances of picking up the disease.

That is, until she meets Alex. Supposedly cured, Alex introduces Lena to a whole other life she had never even imagined.

The Good

I loved the premise for this novel and I think it was portrayed really well. I found myself sinking into the world-building, and could really imagine Portland as it is in Lena's world. The theme of love as a disease is very clever - and very believable! (Who hasn't had a teenage heartbreak that felt like the world was falling apart?!) I was curious as to how Cureds and Un-Cureds would interact, and was rewarded with some great, awkward dialogues between the two.

I also really enjoyed the relationship between Lena , Hana and Alex. Hooray - no insta-love! Hooray - a best friend who isn't a comedy counter act! The romance in the novel wasn't overly soppy either; bonus!
I found this little grouping of friends really endearing and I'm actually really looking forward to downloading book #1.5 - which is a short story focused on Hana.

The ending of Delirium #1 is great. Even though this is the first book in a series, I feel it also stands alone quite well. It is left open enough for a follow-up. but also has a sense of finality, if that's as far as you want to go with the books. The finale was dramatic, but not melodramatic, and had a great "final image". It felt very cinematic.

The Bad

If you take away the "world", the first 3/4 of Delirium is a very simple - at times cliched - YA novel. It feels quite standard and very familiar, owing to the fact that you could pick up any book from the YA shelf and have an 80% chance that if you swapped the dystopia, you'd have the same book. I just wish Delirium continued to gave me a kick of uniqueness and creativity in the narrative, not just in the world!

However, I enjoyed the book a lot despite this "bad" point - so I think it's more of an "I wish" than an actual "bad"!


Delirium is a very enjoyable read that has some lovely characters and a great idea to get it going. However, I felt that the originality of the world didn't carry through to the narrative for the first 3/4 of the book.


Extra! Delirium is commissioned as a TV mini-series! Keep your eyes on the blog and I'll post UK air dates (if and when they arrive) as soon as I know them!

And the Mountains Echoed - review

"They say, Find a purpose in your life and live it. But, sometimes, it is only after you have lived that you recognize your life had a purpose, and likely one you never had in mind." 

Title: And The Mountains Echoed
Author: Khaled Hosseini
Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing
Buy it: On Amazon  


In 1952, Baba Saboor takes his two children, Abdullah and Pari across the vast Afghanistan desert, from their poor, poverty stricken village of Shadbagh into Kabul. On the way, he tells them a folk tale of Baba Ayub, who must sacrifice his child to save all of the village children from the dreadful Div - "Severing the finger to save the hand". The story is an allusion to the following events. Saboor breaks the sibling bond between Abdullah and his sister, by selling Pari to a rich, childless couple in order to keep his family alive through the coming winter. True to the title, this day echoes through the lives of generations to come, and across all the pages that follow.

The Good

And The Mountains Echoed is a beautiful and subtly crafted story of sacrifice and suffering. It feels more like poetry than a novel in it's structure - the chapters resemble connected but separate verses rather than continuous prose. Hosseini takes you on a journey from Afghanistan, to Paris, to Greece and across many years and generations. You meet many characters, from many lives, all in some way connected to that fateful time in 1952 when Saboor "severed the finger".

It is a gentle story, wonderfully uplifting at times (Nabi and Suleiman's story was my favourite) while others are dark and unhappy. Nothing is spelled out, and everything is insinuated. I am fearful I may have been too ignorant in parts to have picked up on everything... I'm not sure I know symptoms of illness well enough to know what characters are suffering from, for example. Now and then I would have appreciated a bit of "telling" rather than showing, but I can only hold that against myself for not being clever enough ;)

And The Mountains Echoed is a circular narrative, and while there are many diversions along the way, I loved how the two ends met at the conclusion. 

The Bad

And The Mountains Echoed is not like previous Khaled Hosseini novels, and this may be a disappointment for some readers expecting the format they are used to. Tied together by an over-arching theme, there are many stories that dip in and out of the novel and, at points, it made the book feel quite fractured and disrupted. I often felt a bit frustrated at not being given an "end" to the previous character's story. For instance, I wanted to know more of Nila's illness and operation. I wanted to know more of Roshi's situation after her time at the hospital, and most of all, I wanted to know what happened to Adel.

I also felt that although each story held within itself a sense of desperation and sadness, the book lacked the emotional impact we are used to from Hosseini's books. I remember while reading A Thousand Splendid Suns, reaching the end of the book with tears rolling down my face at quite a furious speed. Although I did not cry at the Kite Runner, there was a palpable lump in my throat. And The Mountains Echoed is a different kind of emotional though... it is a constant, unrelenting depiction of feeling, in all it's forms.


And The Mountains Echoed is, very simply, a beautiful portrayal of feeling. A landscape of emotions. While there are many stories in the book there is only one real beginning and end, and that is Abdullah's story. Whether or not readers will struggle with that, I don't know... but I do hope they wont. The echoes of Abdullah's story are present in each of the tangents, and it's wonderful.


Strange book discovery of the day...

Did you know you can now smell like your favourite book?

That's right, folks - Demeter offer you a "Paperback" fragrance! With notes of "Paper, ink, glue and time".

Would you wear it? Would you buy it for a bookish friend?


Imagine it: the PERFECT e-reader...

Imagine it... the PERFECT E-reader... Goodness knows I love my Kindle, but it doesn't come flaw-free. As a reader, there's a lot more I think it should do - and so far in my quest, I'm yet to find the E-reader that will lend itself to any of the following...

(Ye take notes, thou production companies looking to bat the Kindles, Kobos and Nooks of the reading world out of the playing field.)

Situation 1:

Reading in bed. 

You know the thing... lying on your side in bed, are you asking your lower, dead arm to hold the reader aloft, or are your practicing duvet athletics, dangling the reader infront of your face with the higher arm?! And, are you ever actually comfortable?!

The Perfect E-Reader would come with a little remote control, so that I can turn the page without removing my arms from the snuggliness and warmth of my duvet. It would also come with a little stand attachment to hold it at any angle, hands-free, to make this ultimately brilliant.

Situation 2:

OMG-WTF-ARE-YOU-KIDDING-ME-ARGHH! aka. Book frustration.

I've been known to hurl one or two (ok, ten, eleven...!) books across the room due to frustration, repulsion, horror, shock, why-did-it-just-end-like-that, where-are-the-bloody-answers reactions.
However, little Bindle the Kindle wouldn't take well to the cold, hard slab of wall it would meet, not to mention the solid, scratchy floor that would follow.

Perfect E-Reader would almost invite me to hurl it with built-in airbag cushioning for air-bourne venting. Perhaps it would detect increasing velocity and launch from it's innards an inflatable Zorb, adding to the hurl-satisfaction by allowing you to watch the book BOUNCE. Therefore, enhancing your reading experience ever further.

Situation 3:


"Ohh a recurring theme! But, hmm, I can't remember all the details of the first and second appearances. Let me just go and check...!"
14 hours later...


Perfect E-Reader will already know the recurring themes/symbols/linking passages of your book and be on hand with helpful cross-referencing menus.

Situation 4:

Saving USEFUL quotes.

The ability to highlight and save to my Kindle is nice, but it isn't exactly useful. Granted I'm working from a Kindle Keyboard and tablets have now intervened in the reading pool, so I'm guessing you can probably Tweet/Facebook/Like your favourite passages now... But can you save to Goodreads? Can you export it to an image app and Instagram it on a seascape (filter: Toaster)?
Granted, this can be very annoying when your feeds are full of it, but as a designer I love having quotes to add to my work. Perfect E-Reader would export a .txt file of my selected passage and sync it to my Dropbox for future endeavors - complete with metatags for copyright attributions!

Situation 5:

Can I get a reeewind?!

I would really just love the ability to rewind, at high speed, through the pages of a book and back again. Honestly, I'm just damned forgetful and if I need to hot-foot it back a couple of chapters for a situation/character refresh, I'd like to be able to do it quickly.

Prefect E-Reader would have a hold-down-for-faster-page-turns button.

Worth mentioning:

Although I wouldn't count them as "main requirements" for Perfect E-Reader, I think the following could be added bonuses:

Scented Next button - Gives you a waft of "page" with every page turn.
Textured screen - choose from magazine gloss to papyrus. Whatever floats your boat.
Front Cover standby screen - Displays the front cover of the currently open book when on standby.

So, these are my ideas for Perfect E-Reader. I hope I might inspire a company to consider a few of them - or perhaps just the impact-readiness haha! 

What would your perfect device have as an extra function?!

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax - review

"Everyone said that one day I was going to have a big accident, an accident to end all accidents. One day you might look up and see a kid falling from the sky. That would be me." 

Title: The Ninth Life of Louis Drax
Author: Liz Jensen
Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks 
Buy it: On Amazon  


Louis Drax is an accident prone child with the ability to survive the impossible. When a family picnic for his birthday ends with Louis dead after falling from a cliff, and with his dad on the run, an investigation is launched to find out whether this was just another accident... or something more sinister. However, Louis is busy defying the laws of science. Miraculously returning from the dead and struggling to make sense of all the mixed information in his battered brain, Louis falls into his Ninth Life: a coma. He has all the evidence the police need to figure out his case. He just needs to find a way to release it from his comatose body...

The Good

The Ninth Life of Louis Drax was a gripping mystery with some very dark undertones.

Chapters were written from the alternate points of view of Louis himself, and his coma ward doctor, Dr Dannachet. I found Louis' chapters to be brilliantly written - disturbing enough to keep you just on the edge of trusting his narrative, but emotional enough to keep you wanting to believe the best in him!
Dannochet's chapters were extremely compelling too - and full of interesting insights into coma care. He was an instantly likeable character, despite his flaws, but I found it a little hard to believe in the instant attraction he felt towards Louis' mother. Still, I found him to be very human, a natural optimist, even with life trying to beat him down.

The book has very slight supernatural themes, but I found they slipped easily into the story line and didn't feel out of place. They weren't so ridiculous that they ruined the story - in fact, they were so well placed I found myself wondering whether the events may actually be possible, in certain circumstances!

The progression of the story was really well paced and kept me guessing the whole way through. The ending was sad but in a way satisfying. No loose ends! Woohoo!

The Bad

I have to admit I wasn't expecting Louis Drax to be the kind of book it was. I was expecting a YA dark supernatural thriller, and what I got was a quite disturbing, very adult novel about a boy in very difficult circumstances. A very good novel, no doubt, but just one I wasn't expecting.

I also found the lack of speech punctuation quite hard to follow. I had to stop to re-read a few paragraphs to work out what was said and what was thought!


The Ninth Life of Louis Drax is a brilliantly written mystery that has roots in some very serious issues. I've not detailed the issues in my review as I feel some of them would end up as spoilers but you should be aware that there are uncomfortable moments. That said, it was wholly enjoyable, neatly tied up and had a nice dose of "the impossible" that also had you wondering whether it really was so "impossible" after all ;)