Pictures from Edinburgh.

I spent the first three days of this week in Edinburgh and while I was there I bought these pictures.  They are of 1984 by George Orwell, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle. Each one shows an image reflecting the book that’s made out of words/sentences of that book. I think they’re really awesome.

1984

1984

The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four

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Review: 13 Little Blue Envelopes

[This was originally written in may 2012]
065Title: 13 Little blue envelopes
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: YA
Number of pages: 319

When 17 year old Ginny is left 13 little blue envelopes by her free-spirited but unreliable aunt Peg her adventure begins.

An adventure which will take her all around Europe from Harrods in London to the vestal virgins of Rome and introduce her to a whole range of different people including playwright/thief/man about town Keith and American tourist family the Knapp’s.

This book has all the elements of what could be a great book. Adventure, European travel, mystery and it probably would’ve been a good book if it had had an interesting main character.

I found Ginny to be annoying and whiny with very little character development. It’s like she spends the whole book going from place to place because she is being told to not because she wants too.

From what I’ve heard about Maureen Johnson I was expecting this book to be a lot better than it was.

Review: Feed

048Title: Feed
Author: Mira Grant
Genre: YA , Political thriller, Post apocalyptic, Zombie story
Number of pages: 571
 
The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one unstoppable command: FEED.
 
Now, twenty years after the rising, bloggers Georgia and 
Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives – the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them.

I found this book in a discount bookshop and picked it up with no clue about the plot or anything. The opening line was enough to convince me to buy it. That line being ‘Our story starts where countless others have ended in the last 26 years: with an idiot – in this case, my brother Shaun – deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.’

The book follows the lives of Georgia and Shaun Mason, bloggers in a world where blogs have become people’s primary way of getting news. It’s a post apocalyptic zombie story meets a political thriller.

There were so many things that I loved about this book. The characters were realistic and I loved that they weren’t teenagers (I read a lot of YA and teenaged main characters doing amazing things gets a bit boring.) and actually had parents.

I also loved the media side of it, Georgia and Shaun are bloggers and blogs have become the way that people get news since the ‘traditional’ media failed to take the rising seriously. To me it felt really plausible, since blogs are an everyday thing now and it’s highly likely that in that situation people would be writing about what was happening. (Also even now the ‘traditional’ media isn’t that great at reporting some things)

I definitely recommend this book.

Really Good Film Adaptations.

[This was originally written in December 2012]

It seems like the majority of the films that are coming out early next year are adaptations of books (Les Miserables, The Great Gatsby, Cloud Atlas etc) . I want to talk about some adaptations that are really good and one which is absolutely terrible.

Harry potter and the philosopher’s stone
As we all know Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone is the first of the Harry Potter books and films. It isn’t my favourite but it is one of the best of all eight films. This is because it had to be good, if it wasn’t I doubt that any of the other books would have been adapted. The philosopher’s stone was our first look at the world we had read about and it kept to the story much more than some of the later ones (Goblet of fire/ Half blood prince).

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist
Based on the book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, this film isn’t exactly the same but it has the same spirit. Michael Cera and Kat Dennings are really good as Nick and Norah. I enjoy both the book and the film.

Let The Right One In (original Swedish version)
Let The Right One in is the only book I have ever read where I liked the film adaptation more that I liked the book. I actually only picked up the book because I loved the film so much. I like how the film keeps all the key parts of the book and displays them in a way that isn’t as graphic and disturbing. If you’ve read the book you’ll know how gross some of it is. I also like that they kept Eli’s gender ambiguous (a key part of the book) unlike the american remake with changed the name entirely to Abby so that they didn’t have to deal with that.

Matilda
I’m slightly ashamed to say this but I’ve never actually read Matilda. Despite this I think we can all agree that the film adaptation is great even though it’s set in America and not England. I have really great memories of watching it as a kid and get reminded of it every time I hear that song that goes ‘on my way’.

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World
Based on the 6 Scott Pilgrim graphic novels, this film sticks almost completely to original story. In fact there are scenes which look identical to images in the graphic novels. It’s one of my favourite films and I love the onscreen effects that make it seem like a video game.

The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey
This is the first of three films based on The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. I went to see it the other day and I absolutely loved it. The whole film looks amazing, Martin Freeman is great as Bilbo and The dwarves are awesome and sometimes hilarious. It’s just a really really good film and I definitely recommend that you go and see it.

An absolutely terrible adaptation is The Golden Compass which is based on Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman. Ugh it’s just so bad, It’s like the producers cared more about the actors and the special effects than the story. I’m glad they haven’t tried to do The Subtle Knife.

Review: Unwholly

002Title: Unwholly
Author: Neal Shusterman
Genre: Dystopian, YA
Number of pages: 402

In a society where unwanted and troublesome teens are salvaged for their body parts, Connor, Risa and Lev continue to fight against the system that would ‘unwind’ them.

Thanks to their high-profile revolt at the Happy Jack Harvest Camp, people can no longer turn a blind eye to unwinding.
Whilst Connor, Risa and Lev are continuing to try helping others in their position, we meet new characters Cam, a Rewind and Nelson, a bitter and sadistic bounty hunter who has already crossed paths with Connor.

Unwholly is the sequel to Unwind, a dystopian novel in which unwanted teenagers between the ages of 13 -18 can be unwound so that they are no longer a problem.  I first read Unwind back in march last year and really enjoyed it so I was happy to find out that Unwholly was being published in the August of the same year.

I had pretty high expectations for Unwholly and it didn’t disappoint. The plot was a good as Unwind and not at all watered down like I thought it might be (based on all the more recent Dystopian’s that have been published).   It carries on from where Unwind finished, Connor and Risa are back in The Graveyard only it is now run by Connor and not The Admiral.

This book also introduces us to four new characters Starkey, Miracolina, Cam and Nelson. At first I felt really sorry for Starkey, an unwind whose parents never wanted him because he was storked but then he changed and I spent the whole book wanting to punch him.

The character that I found the most interesting was Cam. Cam has been rewound which basically means that he is made up entirely of body parts taken from people who have been unwound, like a modern day Frankenstein’s Monster. I liked the way he developed as a character, how he started off struggling to find words and make all the different parts of himself work together.

I really enjoyed this book and am kind of sad that I have to wait another year for the final book to come out. I definitely recommend the books of this trilogy.

My favourite books with female protagonists written by female authors.

[This post was originally written in August 2012, I’m moving it from my old blog to this one]

This list is inspired by The Lady Survey that was going around YouTube.

0501. Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin

 When Liz is killed by a hit-and-run driver her ‘life’ takes an unexpected turn. But in Elsewhere all things carry on almost as they did on earth expect that the inhabitants get younger, new relationships are formed and old ones, which had been sadly interrupted, are renewed.    

Elsewhere has been a favourite of mine since I first read it back when I was about 14. I love Liz and her relationships with the people around her as she tries to fit into and accept the new place/ situation that she is in.

This book is a new and well written take on what happens after we die. I highly recommend that you read it.

0512. Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins.

Jazz Gardner is heading off to India during the monsoon season to help out at an orphanage, more specifically the orphanage her mother grew up in. But going to India isn’t Jazz’s idea of a great summer holiday as she doesn’t want to leave behind her best friend Steve and the business they own together. Only when she befriends Danita, a girl who cooks for her family, does Jazz begin to see just how much she can make a difference.  

This book is another of my favourites.  When the book starts Jazz is independent but also quite insecure. Over the course of the book she grows a lot as a character.

0533. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.   

In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boy and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When 16 year old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her sisters place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

The hunger Games is one of those books that is impossible to put down once you start reading it. Katniss is a well written character who cares more about her family than anything else. One of the things I like most about her is that she isn’t particularly interested in or happy about the love triangle (wow I really hate those words) that forms around her over the course of the trilogy. There’s a quote I like from Mockingjay which shows this … ‘The very notion that I’m devoting any thought to who I want presented as my lover, given our current circumstances, is demeaning.’

0484. Feed by Mira Grant. 

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one unstoppable command: FEED.

Now, twenty years after the rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives – the dark conspiracy behind the infected. The truth will out, even if it kills them. 

Feed is an awesome combination of post-apocalyptic zombie story and political thriller. Georgia (the protagonist) is a badass but what I love most about her is that she doesn’t fit any of the standard YA clichés. She’s 23, has a job and parents and isn’t involved in any love triangles.

0495. Vegan, Virgin, Valentine by Carolyn Mackler.

Mara Valentine is in control. She’s a straight A student and strict vegan, she’s heading to a top university in the fall and even has her remaining months in Brockport all planned out. Mara’s plan does not involve having V, her slutty, weed-smoking 16 year old niece – yes niece – coming to live with the family. Before Mara knows it, things are spinning wildly out of control.     

0526. Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea, crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.


Unlike the other books on this list Beauty Queens has not one but a dozen female protagonists, each with their own individual story and issues. Beauty queens is quite light hearted and sometimes a little bit silly but it manages to tackle some serious issues like the objectification and exploitation of women and being comfortable with your sexuality.

Review: The Casual Vacancy

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Title: The Casual Vacancy
Author: J.K. Rowling
Genre: Adult
Number of pages: 503

When Barry Fairbrother dies in his early forties, the town of Pagford is left in shock.

Pagford is, seemingly, an English idyll, with a cobbled market square and an ancient abbey, but what lies behind the pretty façade is a town at war.

Rich at war with poor, teenagers at war with their parents, wives at war with their husbands, teachers at war with their pupils…Pagford is not what it first seems.And the empty seat left by Barry on the parish council soon becomes the catalyst for the biggest war the town has yet seen. Who will triumph in an election fraught with passion, duplicity and unexpected revelations?

The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling’s first novel for adults

I’ll be honest and admit that I bought this book mainly because of who the author is. However I didn’t go into it thinking that it would be anything like Harry Potter, and I was right to think that. The Casual Vacancy is about as far from Harry Potter as she could have gone. I have mixed feelings about this book, I think that it was good but I didn’t like it.

The book centres around the issues of whether or not the nearby estate called The Fields should remain a part of Pagford and whether the drug rehabilitation centre should be shut down, with most of the characters being on opposing sides.  It’s very much about politics and class.

J.K Rowling is a very good writer and one the things she is best at is writing characters. The Casual Vacancy has at least 10 of varying ages and the narrative switches between them.  Each character from 60 something Howard Mollison to teenager Andrew Price is realistic and well written but not very likeable as each is flawed. The characters in this book are very human.

One of the things I liked the most is that she gives you a good understanding of how characters got to where they are, so that you imagine them more complexly instead of just judging them straight away. A good example of this is the character of Terri Weedon who is a drug-addict and prostitute. When you first meet her you are sort of just like ‘oh she’s a drug addict, it’s probably her own fault that she’s that way’. Then the story switches to her perspective and you learn more about her life & childhood and you understand more why she is the way she is and how she got there.

This is a book which focuses on issues such as addiction, rape, self harm and abuse and for that reason it is a book which is not really suitable for younger readers.