Sunday, 17 August 2014

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell **Review**


Eleanor & Park
Series: None
Pages: 325
Publisher: Orion
Release date: February 1st 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
Eleanor is the new girl in town, and with her chaotic family life, her mismatched clothes and unruly red hair, she couldn't stick out more if she tried.

Park is the boy at the back of the bus. Black T-shirts, headphones, head in a book - he thinks he's made himself invisible. But not to Eleanor... never to Eleanor.

Slowly, steadily, through late-night conversations and an ever-growing stack of mix tapes, Eleanor and Park fall for each other. They fall in love the way you do the first time, when you're young, and you feel as if you have nothing and everything to lose.

I was very excited to get started on Eleanor & Park. After reading and loving Fangirl last year, I was sure that I would end up loving this one too. And although I think Eleanor & Park is quite different to Fangirl, I was absolutely right – I did really love it.

The first thing that really stands out about this book is just how real the characters are. I wasn't that far in when I realised that I was already thinking of both Eleanor and Park as real people and that I was already starting to care about them. I really wanted them to be together and I wanted them to be happy. I was laughing with them, worrying with them, feeling scared with them and falling in love with them.
Both Eleanor and Park have very distinct personalities and I found it very easy to get to know them because of that. I also found that I could picture them very easily – and I loved that they weren't your standard beautiful (but overly modest) teenagers, that they had their flaws, both physically and with the way that they acted, but were still just as loveable. They show that you don't have to be 'perfect' to fall in love, or be loved in return.
This is also true of many of the other characters, especially the two characters' families. Eleanor's mum and stepdad were easy to picture, which was sometimes quite uncomfortable, and I couldn't help but feel genuine hate towards her stepdad (another sign of a great, well-developed character, but I still hated him!). Parks parents were especially easy to picture, and I adored them (even with their flaws).

I think that another reason I got to know Eleanor and Park both so well and so quickly is that the point of view switched between them – sometimes several times a chapter – so I got to see both points of view during the same scene. This works incredibly well, not just at allowing the reader into both of their heads, but also in moving the plot along at a steady pace and keeping the reader firmly gripped. I didn't want to put it down.

I found the time period that the book is set in really interesting. The story begins in August 1986 and eventually spans well over a year. This of course means that there is no internet, no mobile phones, cassette players, tapes, old rock and punk music and people still wrote actual letters to each other.
I don't pretend to fully understand why Rainbow chose to set the book in this era, but I think it may have something to do with the romantic feeling that all of these things lend to the story. I mean, who doesn't find the idea of someone making you a music tape romantic? And even if you weren't born in the 1980s (which I wasn't ... I'm a 90s kid through and through) you can still feel a sense of warm nostalgia that pops up every time they talk about music (which is a lot). And then there are the classic comic books, which absolutely make me wish that I was born earlier so that I could have experienced the excitement of the next issue of Watchmen being released.

Eleanor & Park is an extremely compelling and incredibly moving novel. It moved me more than I think I have been by a book for a long time. I've laughed, worried, and felt all the injustice and the love that both characters experienced. I experienced everything along with them, and it was glorious.
This beautiful book that reminds us that you don't have to be 'perfect' to fall in love, and that although things may not go the way you want them to in life, you can always find hope and happiness, even if it's in small doses.

I cannot recommend this book more. If you haven't picked this, or any of Rainbow Rowell's other books up yet, you absolutely should. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Friday, 15 August 2014

Every You, Every Me by David Levithan **Review**


Every You, Every Me
Series: None
Pages: 256
Publisher: Ember
Release date: 21st September 2012
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
In this high school-set psychological tale, a tormented teen named Evan starts to discover a series of unnerving photographs—some of which feature him. Someone is stalking him . . . messing with him . . . threatening him. Worse, ever since his best friend Ariel has been gone, he's been unable to sleep, spending night after night torturing himself for his role in her absence. And as crazy as it sounds, Evan's starting to believe it's Ariel that's behind all of this, punishing him. But the more Evan starts to unravel the mystery, the more his paranoia and insomnia amplify, and the more he starts to unravel himself. Creatively told with black-and-white photos interspersed between the text so the reader can see the photos that are so unnerving to Evan, Every You, Every Me is a one-of-a-kind departure from a one-of-a-kind author.


I am going to start by saying that I do absolutely love and adore David Levithan and everything that he writes. I need to get that out there before I say that although I did really love this book, it's actually very different from the rest of stuff, and is much harder to recommend because of this difference.

Unlike any of David's other collaborations, this one is done with a photographer. Photographs appear throughout the story and the book incorporates them really well, to tell a disturbing story about the narrator, Evan, and his best friend Ariel, and what happened in the woods one day that meant she was no longer around.
I did think that the photographs worked really well. They enhanced the story and made it just that little bit creepier than it would have been had the photos simply been described.
My one criticism (that has nothing to do with the writer) is that the book could definitely have been printed better by the publisher. Some of the photos in the paperback are not all that clear and it made it difficult to see what they were. However, when I looked at my friend's hardback version of the book, the photos were much crisper and easier to make out. I would definitely recommend getting hold of the hardback if you're interested in reading this!

Another thing that really sets this book apart from David's others is the stylistic writing style. David does often like to experiment with voice and style in his books, but I think this is one of the more interesting cases. Some of the text is crossed out, which gives the narrative a strange conscious thought vs subconscious thought feeling. This, in my opinion, made the book both fast-paced and fragmented, which really added to the voice and to the overall experience of the book. It was strange hearing both the words that Evan is actually saying to Ariel, and the words that he doesn't, or feels he can't. The words he can never really say.

The other thing about this book that sets it apart from the rest of David's books is the story itself. It's a lot more psychological, in some ways more abstract (this isn't quite the right word, but it's the closest I can think of that comes anywhere near describing how I think of it) and it definitely gets more into the mind of the narrator than any of his other books seem to. This could just be because the narrator is conflicted, and is also trying to deal with problems that no one else seems to understand, but he really does seem to have cracked into the very soul of his narrator and exposed every part of him.

Like I said at the beginning, this is a very difficult book to recommend. If you're already a fan of David Levithan, I would definitely say to give this a go, but be mindful that it has a very different texture to the rest of his books. If you're new to David, I would possibly say to try another of his books first – probably Every Day or Will Grayson, Will Grayson (written with John Green) – and then give this a go when you're ready for something a little bit different.
If your interest has been piqued by my review though, and you want to experience the uniqueness of this story for yourself, then I would urge you to go and get a copy right now (or if the shops are shut, tomorrow) and check it out for yourself. I'm really glad that I did.


Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Wishlist Wednesday #151

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wishlist for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves.

So what do you need to do to join in?
  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of this post.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://www.pentopaperblog.com) somewhere in your post, and a note saying that Pen to Paper is the host of the meme.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!


Daughter of the Blood
by Anne Bishop

Synopsis:
The Darkness has had a Prince for a long, long time. Now the Queen is coming.

For years the realm of Terreille has been falling into corruption, as the powerful Queens who rule it have turned to cruelty.

But there is hope - a prophetic vision has revealed the coming of a Queen more powerful than any other. And once the foundations of her power - father, brother, lover - are in place, she will emerge from the darkness, bringing freedom.

For she is the living myth, dreams made flesh; not just any witch, but Witch.
One of my fellow booksellers (and writing buddy) Andi absolutely loves this book and she has recommended it to me so many times that I've genuinely lost count. The only thing that has so far stopped me from picking up a copy is the fact that I actually have no more shelf (or floor) space left in which to store it! I seriously need to get rid of some books! (That is a painful sentence!)
But this does look amazing, and I do love witches, so I will definitely be getting this very soon!

What's on your wishlist this week? Let us know in the comments below, or link to your own Wishlist Wednesday post in the Linky :) 








Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Wishlist Wednesday #150

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wishlist for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves.

So what do you need to do to join in?
  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of this post.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://www.pentopaperblog.com) somewhere in your post, and a note saying that Pen to Paper is the host of the meme.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!


Arclight
by Josin L. McQuein

Synopsis:
No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?
First of all, I want to apologise for the lack of Wishlist Wednesday last week! It's the first time I've ever completely missed a Wishlist Wednesday post since I started doing them. I was ridiculously busy last week, and I just simply didn't have the time to spare. This week is slightly less hectic though – fortunately!

Anyway, this week I went for something that I have literally only heard of in the past seven days. I don't know how it escaped my notice before, but it did. I was out shopping with a friend when I spotted this is one of the bookshops we went in. The cover immediately caught my attention and I was wondering what on Earth the book could be about to get a cover like that. And instantly the synopsis drew me in – the only reason it's on my wishlist and not already on my shelves is that the only copy the bookshop had was slightly damaged!
I will definitely be getting this one soon.

What's on your wishlist this week? Let us know in the comments below, or link to your own Wishlist Wednesday post in the Linky :) 








Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher **Review**


The Killing Woods
Series: None
Pages: 384
Publisher: Chicken House
Release date: 3rd October 2013
Buy: Book Depository | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Waterstones

Add to Goodreads

Goodreads synopsis:
Emily’s dad is accused of murdering a teenage girl. Emily is sure he is innocent, but what happened that night in the woods behind their house where she used to play as a child? Determined to find out, she seeks out Damon Hillary, the enigmatic boyfriend of the murdered girl. He also knows these woods. Maybe they could help each other. But he’s got secrets of his own about games that are played in the dark.

A new psychological thriller from the award-winning and bestselling author of STOLEN and FLYAWAY.

The Killing Woods is a book that I looked at for a while before deciding to finally buy it, and then a bit more before I decided to read it. I just wasn't sure about it. The factor that finally persuaded me to pick it up was the fact that Lucy Christopher was going to be at the Young Adult Literature Convention (YALC) in London, and I was going to be there too. I wanted to try and read as many of the authors as I could before I went, and Lucy was one of those that I had yet to read.

Any doubts I had originally held about the book were almost immediately put to rest when I started reading it. I found the style really easy to get into, and I found both Emily and Damon's voices real and distinguishable enough that they didn't clash. The story gets going quickly and I was immediately sucked into the book. 30 pages in, I was hooked.
However, although there is a lot of tension all the way through the book, and I was constantly wondering if it really was Emily's dad that had killed Ashlee, or someone else (maybe even Damon?!), there were certain chapters that I felt slowed the pace a little bit. I didn't feel as though they really took the story anywhere new, which would have kept the pace of the plot up at a steady speed. Other parts of the story, however, more than made up for this. The last 80 pages or so were really fast-paced and I found that I couldn't put it down at this point!
I also had a lot of fun coming up with my own theories about what really happened and who really did it. I had my eye on a couple of different characters who I thought could easily have done it; one was a suspect and one was the killer. I didn't feel as though I'd been cheated though, being able to guess the killer, because although I guessed the person, I didn't guess the circumstance, and it didn't take away from the tension or the drama.

I did have a small problem with the way some of the book was written. Mostly the prose was engaging and really transported me into the world that the book creates – especially when the characters are in Darkwood (which, despite everything, I would quite like to visit ... if it's real ...) – however, I was pulled out of the story on the odd occasion by the odd phrases that the author sometimes used. These were mostly metaphors or similes that were being used to describe how something/someone looked or felt, but I often found myself thinking, 'What does that even mean?'.
It didn't make too much of an impact on the story because it didn't happen all the time, but it was enough for me to notice and feel the need to say something.

All in all I did think that The Killing Woods was a good read. It was tense and mysterious, a little bit strange, and quite absorbing. Although I did have some problems with it, I was mostly gripped all the way through.
I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery – especially if you like trying to work out 'whodunnit' – or to anyone who likes their books to have a bit of a thrill element.
3.5 stars



Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Wishlist Wednesday #149

Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop where we will post about one book per week that has been on our wishlist for some time, or just added (it's entirely up to you), that we can't wait to get off the wishlist and onto our wonderful shelves.

So what do you need to do to join in?
  • Follow Pen to Paper as host of the meme.
  • Please consider adding the blog hop button to your blog somewhere, so others can find it easily and join in too! Help spread the word! The code will be at the bottom of the post under the linky.
  • Pick a book from your wishlist that you are dying to get to put on your shelves.
  • Do a post telling your readers about the book and why it's on your wishlist.
  • Add your blog to the linky at the bottom of this post.
  • Put a link back to pen to paper (http://www.pentopaperblog.com) somewhere in your post, and a note saying that Pen to Paper is the host of the meme.
  • Visit the other blogs and enjoy!


The Elites
by Natasha Ngan

Synopsis:
‘There is a rumour that the Elites don’t bleed.’

Hundreds of years into the future, wars, riots, resource crises and rising sea-levels have destroyed the old civilisations. Only one city has survived: Neo-Babel, a city full of cultures – and racial tension.

Fifteen-year-old Silver is an Elite, a citizen of Neo-Babel chosen to guard the city due to her superior DNA. She’d never dream of leaving – but then she fails to prevent the assassination of Neo Babel’s president, setting off a chain of events more shocking and devastating than she could ever have imagined. Forced to flee the city with her best friend Butterfly (a boy with genetically-enhanced wings), Silver will have to fight to find her family, uncover the truth about Neo-Babel and come to terms with her complicated feelings for Butterfly.

Packed full of adventure, romance, exoticism and the power of friendship, The Elites is a highly compelling and beautifully written novel from a supremely talented debut author.
This is a title I've seen just about everywhere recently, including at YALC this weekend just gone. The first thing that is so striking about this book is obviously the cover. But I think the story sounds equally as striking. I love futuristic stories, especially ones that are as imaginative as this one seems. Also, a boy with wings? Who wouldn't want wings?!
Once I've got through some more of my books, I will definitely be getting this one on my shelves!

What's on your wishlist this week? Let us know in the comments below, or link to your own Wishlist Wednesday post in the Linky :) 








 
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