Confessions of a Reader

'Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.' – Mason Cooley


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Book Review // Jane, The Fox & Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

JaneTheFox&Me

Format: Hardcover
Published: 6th February 2014
Publisher: Walker Books UK
Pages: 104

This is a non-spoiler review. I’ve never reviewed a graphic novel before, I will do my best – although it will be a slightly shorter one than usual. Also, this is a part of my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Synopsis:
Hélène has been inexplicably ostracized by the girls who were once her friends. Her school life is full of whispers and lies — Hélène weighs 216; she smells like BO. Her loving mother is too tired to be any help. Fortunately, Hélène has one consolation, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. Hélène identifies strongly with Jane’s tribulations, and when she is lost in the pages of this wonderful book, she is able to ignore her tormentors. But when Hélène is humiliated on a class trip in front of her entire grade, she needs more than a fictional character to allow her to see herself as a person deserving of laughter and friendship.

Leaving the outcasts’ tent one night, Hélène encounters a fox, a beautiful creature with whom she shares a moment of connection. But when Suzanne Lipsky frightens the fox away, insisting that it must be rabid, Hélène’s despair becomes even more pronounced: now she believes that only a diseased and dangerous creature would ever voluntarily approach her. But then a new girl joins the outcasts’ circle, Géraldine, who does not even appear to notice that she is in danger of becoming an outcast herself. And before long Hélène realizes that the less time she spends worrying about what the other girls say is wrong with her, the more able she is to believe that there is nothing wrong at all.

This emotionally honest and visually stunning graphic novel reveals the casual brutality of which children are capable, but also assures readers that redemption can be found through connecting with another, whether the other is a friend, a fictional character or even, amazingly, a fox.

My Thoughts:
I heard about this graphic novel through Mercedes over at MercysBookishMusings on YouTube. Whilst browsing at the library during the week I saw it and knew I had to borrow it – I’m glad I did.

Firstly, I loved the presentation of this novel. The book itself is gorgeous, extremely good quality. The idea of the story encompassing Jane Eyre also intrigued me, as I love the original.

The artwork is lovely. Part of it is drawn in black and white and the other part in vibrant colours. I will let you discover for yourselves what this symbolises.

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The story is wonderful. It is so touching, one of the most touching graphic novels I’ve read. It is a story about loneliness, friendship, bullying and ultimately hope. The story would be relatable to any reader, young or old.

StarRating5 out of 5 stars

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Birthday Book Haul!

Hello!

I recently celebrated my Birthday and naturally got some lovely new books. I may add more to this pile – I still have some money left and I might venture into a few charity shops. Here is what I have (so far!) –

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His Other Life by Beth Thomas // The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson // The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld // Me Before You by JoJo Moyes // Half A King by Joe Abercrombie //Geek Love by Katherine Dunn

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The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

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Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling // The Terrors of the Night by Thomas Nashe

I haven’t gone completely overboard, as I am still trying to cut down my TBR pile. I don’t actually have physical shelves for these books at the moment either, so they are all stored in a huge box – not very practical.

Have you read any of these? Are there any new releases that you would recommend?


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Book Review // All The Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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Format: Paperback
Published: 8th Jan 2015
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 400

This is a non-spoiler review.

Synopsis:

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him. 

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink. How far will Violet go to save the boy she has come to love?

First Sentence:
Is today a good day to die?

My Thoughts:

I actually found this review quite difficult to write – for what reason I’m not sure. 

I wasn’t sure on this book at first, I picked it up a few weeks back and put it back down as I just wasn’t feeling it at the time. I wanted to try again as I’ve heard so much about it and actually borrowed it from the library and had already renewed it twice! I was so glad I finally read it!

The story is essentially very character driven. We follow Finch & Violet on their journey through life, and the discovery of themselves. I loved the build up of their relationship over time, they just clicked – even though they were so different from each other.

The novel is split into two narratives, Finch & Violet’s. I felt that this really helped me get to know them as individuals, yet displayed their love for one another perfectly. Their adventures and wanderings were charming – I throughly enjoyed reading about them – especially the mobile bookstore!

Jennifer Niven deals with two serious topics so well, I admired that she didn’t attempt to sugarcoat. The characters seemed real to me, their struggles genuine. Finch’s narrative was hard to read at times, it is a true reflection of his thoughts and ongoing battle with his mental state. After reading the Author’s Note it became clear that Niven had lost a loved one to suicide. Knowing this made me love this book even more, she had truly lived and breathed the situation. It must have been a difficult novel to write.

This book had me rooting for both characters, loving Finch’s quirks and Violet learning to live again. I knew it would break my heart, that there would be tears and sadness – I just didn’t know it would affect me as much as it did. I loved so many parts of this book – the love, the loss, the struggle, the fear, the strength and I would read it all over again.

I really want to pick up some more of Jennifer Niven’s books now – luckily there are a quite a few!

StarRating5 out of 5 stars

Website: jenniferniven.com
Twitter: @jenniferniven


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Book Review // Vendetta – Catherine Doyle

Vendetta

Format: Paperback
Published: 1st January 2015
Publisher: Chicken House Ltd
Pages: 384
Series/Standalone?: Series (Blood for Blood)
Genre: YA Contemporary

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book is counting towards my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Synopsis taken from Amazon:

When five brothers move into the abandoned mansion next door, Sophie Gracewell’s life changes forever. Irresistibly drawn to bad boy Nic, Sophie finds herself falling into an underworld governed by powerful families. When Sophie’s own family skeletons come to life, she must choose between two warring dynasties – the one she was born into, and the one she is falling in love with. When she does, blood will spill and hearts will break…

My Thoughts:

After hearing so many great reviews about this book I was really looking forward to it. I was so excited when I saw it in the library! I enjoyed it, but I have to say I didn’t love it as much as other people have – I can’t really put my finger on why.

The premise of this novel is exciting – a kind of modern twist on the classic Romeo & Juliet tale, warring families, dark secrets and lots of action. I did get a sense of the Romeo & Juliet vibe throughout the novel – Sophie & Nic’s relationship is definitely turbulent! I loved that they were completely different yet very similar, if that makes sense.

The brothers themselves were rather dreamy. The mystery surrounding them makes them even more appealing in my eyes, I was left wondering about them the whole time. I will say that the author did a very good job at keeping me on my toes, I didn’t guess the plot twist towards the end at all. The imagery and description within the novel is brilliant. The author does a really good job at describing every image, scene and emotion so vividly – you do feel like you are really there.

I felt like the last third of the book was certainly the best. It was the bit that I sped through, wanting to know what happened next. The novel itself – for me anyway – felt like more of a ‘setting the scene’ book. Being the first in the series I can see that the second instalment may provide us with lots more action and the idea of the ‘family legacy’.

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Parts of the story did feel a little unrealistic to me. Towards the end Sophie finds herself in a very sticky situation. I would be very surprised if a girl of 17 was able to react in the way that she did – adrenalin kick or not. I also preferred Luca to Nicoli. Nic’s reactions irritated me – I felt he blew hot and cold all the time, Luca was true to himself throughout.

I think the series will definitely improve as the series moves forward. I am curious as to what Catherine Doyle will bring us in book 2.

StarRating3 out of 5 stars

Website: www.catherinedoylebooks.com
Twitter: @doyle_cat

 

 


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Book Review // The Fault in Our Stars – John Green

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Format: Kindle Edition
Published: 3rd May 2012
Publisher: Penguin
Pages: 337
Series/Standalone?: Standalone
Genre: YA Contemporary

BUY: Amazon | Book Depository

This book is counting towards my 2015 Reading Challenge.

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Synopsis taken from Amazon:

“I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, then all at once.”

Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel’s story is about to be completely rewritten.

Insightful, bold, irreverent, and raw, The Fault in Our Stars is award-winning author John Green’s most ambitious and heartbreaking work yet, brilliantly exploring the funny, thrilling, and tragic business of being alive and in love.

My Thoughts:

Now, this book has been on my TBR pile for a looonnnggg time, maybe even a couple of years. I decided to pick it up thanks to my 2015 reading challenge and #ProjectTBR. I’m certainly glad I did. It made me smile, feel joy and love, sadness and grief – all in the space of a few days.

I haven’t actually read a book in which a character is dealing with the pain and torment of cancer, so this was a first for me. Hazel was the perfect person for me to follow on this ‘journey’. She was  blunt, opinionated, brutally honest, witty and particularly strong-willed. Her description of living with the illness had me laughing and nearly crying. I loved how John Green didn’t sugar coat anything – it was gritty, raw and completely honest. It really hit home how cancer can affect any one, any time, any place. A close work colleague of mine passed away at the end of last year, at the tender age of 28, after a long, painful battle with the disease. This novel helped me to understand how patients must feel living with it – even though it was a work of fiction – an honest reflection that wasn’t all sunshine and daisies.

Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.

The relationship between Augustus and Hazel was beautiful. Seeing them grow and develop together was lovely, whilst being completely heart-breaking. Although I knew the inevitable would happen, I still didn’t see it panning out the way it eventually did.

The only – very minor – thing that irritated me slightly throughout the novel was the incessant use of the word ‘Okay’. I understand that this is a poignant phrase, used as a term of endearment but I found myself rolling my eyes every time it was used. Believe me, it was a lot!

I am SO glad I finally read this, I would definitely recommend it to students I teach (if they haven’t read it already!). I will definitely check out the film adaptation at some point too.

I am looking at picking up some more John Green – any recommendations?

www.johngreenbooks.com
@johngreen