Review: The Cuckoo’s Calling

001Title: The Cuckoo’s Calling
Author: Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Genre: Crime fiction, Detective Fiction
Number of pages: 449

When a troubled model falls to her death from a snow-covered Mayfair balcony, it is assumed that she has committed suicide. However, her brother has his doubts, and calls in private investigator Cormoran Strike to look into the case. 

Strike is a war veteran – wounded both physically and psychologically – and his life is in disarray. The case gives him a financial lifeline, but it comes at a personal cost: the more he delves into the young model’s complex world, the darker things get – and the closer he gets to terrible danger . . . 

When I first heard about The Cuckoo’s Calling I was curious but didn’t want to buy it straight away because crime novels aren’t really my thing. I downloaded the free sample on my kindle to get a sense of whether I would enjoy it or not and knew after the first chapter that I would end up buying it.

The Cuckoo’s Calling begins with the death of famous model Lula Landry. Since she fell from a balcony and had mental health problems the police quickly write it off as a suicide. Her brother John isn’t so sure and calls in our protagonist Cormoran Strike a private detective to look into it further. The book follows Strike as he interviews the people around Lula Landry and tries to piece together how and why she ended up falling from that balcony.

I haven’t read much crime fiction but I really enjoyed this book. It only took me a few days to read and kept me guessing all the way through. I couldn’t decide/work out who of two different people had some responsibility for what happened until it was revealed right at the end. Ok that sentence may have be worded weirdly but I don’t want to post any spoilers, people who spoil things suck.

Strike is a likeable enough main character and I liked the relationship between him and Robin. I’ve said this before but one of the things J.K. Rowling is best at is writing characters and it shows. There’s a large cast of characters in The Cuckoo’s Calling and they all felt pretty realistic.

I thought it was interesting that this book is set in 2010. It doesn’t explicitly tell you that it is but there are little hints like mentions of things that happened in the run up to the election and famous characters talking about having their phones hacked. I think I understand why Rowling chose to set the book in this time because the death of Lula Landry and Strikes investigation of it are heavily surrounded by the media and the press. 2010 makes sense because it was just before the Phone hacking scandal was revealed and the Leveston inquiry, at that time the press had much more freedom to hound celebrities and get ‘news’.

I definitely recommend The Cuckoo’s Calling even if you don’t read crime fiction.

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Review: Geek Girl

003Title: Geek Girl
Author: Holly Smale
Genre: YA
Number of pages: 356

Harriet Manners knows a lot of things. She knows that a cat has 32 muscles in each ear, a “jiffy” lasts 1/100th of a second, and the average person laughs 15 times per day. What she isn’t quite so sure about is why nobody at school seems to like her very much. So when she’s spotted by a top model agent, Harriet grabs the chance to reinvent herself. Even if it means stealing her Best Friend’s dream, incurring the wrath of her arch enemy Alexa, and repeatedly humiliating herself in front of the impossibly handsome supermodel Nick. Even if it means lying to the people she loves. 

As Harriet veers from one couture disaster to the next with the help of her overly enthusiastic father and her uber-geeky stalker, Toby, hershe begins to realise that the world of fashion doesn’t seem to like her any more than the real world did. 

And as her old life starts to fall apart, the question is: will Harriet be able to transform herself before she ruins everything?

I’d been wanting to read this book for a while so when it was included in the Kindle Daily Deal on Amazon I ended up buying it. I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I was going to.

Geek Girl is about Harriet, a self confessed geek who doesn’t like fashion. When her best friend Nat drags her to The Clothes Show she is spotted by a top modelling agency and decides to become a model in the hopes that people will see her differently. I think I might have enjoyed this book more if I was younger. I’m sure my 14 year old self would have really enjoyed it  but I had problems with it.

Harriet is 15 but she seems more like a 13 year old, her voice is quite childish and there’s a part were a fellow model asks her how old she is and she says ’15 and three twelfths”. I mean who still measures their age like that by the time they get to 15.  Maybe she got that childishness from her dad though because he didn’t seem very mature for an adult. A lot of his and Harriet’s problems could have been avoided if they had told the truth.

There was one character in this book that I found extremely irritating, Wilbur the model agency guy. Every time he spoke and I mean every time he used ridiculous pet names like ‘Cherub cheeks and  Munchkin-face’. After a while I started to just skim the parts where he spoke because he annoyed me. I don’t have a problem with slang or unusual language in books if it’s done right but this just wasn’t.

There is a lot of teenage drama in this book but it’s ok because it’s pretty realistic. Teenagers (at least in my experience) are idiots sometimes and fall out with their friends. I met a couple of different people who were like Alexa during my time at secondary school. I didn’t like the fact that Harriet just excepted that Toby was stalking her though. That was just weird and it seems like a bad message to send to teenagers. Stalking isn’t ok.

Despite its flaws Geek Girl is ok and I would recommend it if you’re looking for something light that doesn’t require much thinking.

Review: Ready Player One

001Title: Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Science Fiction
Number of pages: 374

It’s the year 2044, and the real world has become an ugly place. We’re out of oil. We’ve wrecked the climate. Famine, poverty, and disease are widespread.

Like most of humanity, Wade Watts escapes this depressing reality by spending his waking hours jacked into the OASIS, a sprawling virtual utopia where you can be anything you want to be. And like most of humanity, Wade is obsessed by the ultimate lottery ticket that lies concealed within this alternate reality: OASIS founder James Halliday, who died with no heir, has promised that control of the OASIS – and his massive fortune – will go to the person who can solve the riddles he has left scattered throughout his creation.

When Wade stumbles onto the key to the first puzzle. He suddenly finds himself pitted against thousands of competitors in a desperate race to claim the ultimate prize, a chase that soon takes on terrifying real-world dimensions – and that will leave both Wade and his world profoundly changed.

I knew when I picked up this book that I was going to enjoy it. I had heard good things from the book blogger/tuber community and also from my dad. He was actually the one who found it in our local library and took it out. When he was done reading it he passed it on to me.

I was hooked from the beginning. Ready player one is set in a futuristic world where everyone uses the Oasis, an alternative reality, to escape the depressing real world and straight away you are told about the contest. The creator of the Oasis James Halliday has died and left his entire fortune to whoever can solve the riddles and find the three keys he left in the Oasis. The main character Wade Watts is the first person to find the first key.

Wade is 18 and still in High School, which I found a little surprising because this book is adult science fiction and not YA. He and the other characters in the book are well developed and the world building is good. We are given a lot of back story about the James Halliday, how the Oasis came to be and a lot of descriptions of the Oasis itself.

The pacing of the events in the book is good, there are quite a lot of big events that happen but they don’t happen one after the other. They are paced so that you don’t get overwhelmed with too much action or bored because nothing has happened in a while.

One of the things I loved the most about this book is how nerdy it is. The book is full of 80’s pop culture references and pretty much anything that you can be nerdy about (Lord of the rings, dungeons and dragons, Harry Potter, Doctor who Etc.) is mentioned in some way.

Ready Player One is my favourite book that I’ve read this year. If you get a chance to read it you should definitely pick it up, I promise you won’t regret it.

Review: Beauty Queens

052Title: Beauty Queens
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA
Number of pages: 396

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.

I recently finished rereading Beauty Queens for the third time and was reminded of just how much I love it. Beauty Queens is an unusual book because it manages to tackle some serious issues while also being quite light hearted and at times silly (in a good way). It’s also pretty good satire with its commercial breaks from the corporation and characters like Ladybird Hope and MoMo B. ChaCha.

Beauty Queens is the story of 12 girls who survive a crash landing on to a desert island. It follows them as they learn to survive and think for themselves away from society.

The book has not one but a dozen female protagonists, each with their own individual story and issues, and the narrative switches between them. This isn’t a problem though because the story is told in the third person. My favourite character changes every time I reread and right now it’s Tiara.

I’ve been trying to work out why I love this book so much and I think it’s because of the way the characters develop throughout the book. They get to know themselves and make friends outside of a society that is always telling them how to be and what to act like. My favourite part of the book is the bit were they are all sitting around a fire talking about girl con and what they do and don’t miss from home.

Libba Bray uses this book to tackle issues like: disability, being LGBTQ, the objectification of women and being comfortable with your sexuality. And she does it well. I really recommend that you read this book.

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.

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.