Tuesday 23 September 2014

'A quotation is a handy thing to have about...

...saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business'
-A.A. Milne, If I May

When I was writing my personal statement to apply for university I was told by my teacher to not use a quotation so as to avoid sounding 'cheesy'. I took her advice but I have since discovered that I have a fondness for quotations. Be they inspirational or dark and gloomy. As someone who can't remember her own mobile number despite having had it for a good 6 years, I find it amazing that I can reel quotations off the top of my head. Hey maybe one day I'll be like Augustus Waters' parents...

'"My parents call them Encouragements" he explained' 
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars 

In fact, John Green in a brilliant person to quote, his books are full to the brim with brilliant metaphors and witty snippets of conversation. How is it that the same man can write...

'Hump the moist cave wall'
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars


'As he read, I fell in love the way you fall asleep: slowly, and then all at once'
-John Green, The Fault in our Stars

John Green, you baffle me!

So, now onto a couple of love quotations...

'Love doesn't conquer everything. And whoever thinks it does is a fool' 
-Donna Tartt, The Secret History 

I love this offering from Donna Tartt, it is a brilliant selection of words that only adds to the brilliance of the book. Although, Jung Chang would beg to differ...

'If you have love, even plain cold water is sweet' 
-Jung Chang, Wild Swans 

***on a side note, I was in the midst of my Avril Lavigne obsession when I was reading this and now I can't listen to her songs without being thrown back into 20th century China***

It's funny how quotations can make the same thing seem so different. Take these two on miracles...

'The trouble with miracles is they don't last long'
-Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl 

And then of course we have Lemony Snicket taking a completely different approach on the concept of miracles...

'Miracles are like meatballs' 
-Lemony Snicket, The Carnivorous Carnival (A Series of Unfortunate Events) 

There aren't many people in the world who can justify comparing miracles to meatballs, but Lemony Snicket is one of them!

Now, we have a couple of quotations from some of my favourite books.

'Just kidding was exactly what people wrote when they meant every word' 
-David Nicholls, One Day

'Dont you think it's better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life'
-Audrey Niffinger, The Time Travelers Wife

'Death is a state of mind- many people on Earth spend their entire lives dead'
-Gavrielle Zevin, Elsewhere

'You can't save people from the world. There's nowhere else to put them' 
-M.R. Carey, The Girl with All the Gifts

And here is a particular favourite...

'Dear Daddy-Long-Legs,

You never answered my question and it was very important. 

-Jean Webster, Daddy-Long-Legs

And in the the words of Dr. Seuss  

'Be awesome! be a book nut!' 


Wednesday 17 September 2014

Paper Swans- Jessica Thompson

Mental health has always been a bit of a taboo subject, but in today's society 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem- so why don't we write about it more? I rarely come across a book that so blatently deals with mental health in such a frank manner- and not just that but too often mental health is glamorised or it ends tragically. This book dealt with mental health in an entirely different and refreshing way. 

Ben is a high flying business man who is reeling in the big bucks. He has an amazing flat in an exclusive part of London and his clothes are disgustingly over priced. He has it all, or so it seems. Mental health doesn't discriminate, and Ben is suffering from anxiety induced by an event in his teen years. Ben doesn't believe he deserves love, he has an irrational fear that he will hurt anyone he loves so to him the obvious option is to just avoid it. But then Effy enters his life, a hardworking charity worker and suddenly he questions his decision to bypass a serious relationship. But can Ben comit to a relationship that he fears he will ruin? 

What Jessica does brilliantly is show the irrational side of mental health. To someone who has never experienced the crippling anxiety it would seem ridiculous how Ben overthinks everything and how he won't allow himself happiness. It doesn't glamorourise the illness and it also shows the mental health can effect anyone- rich or poor, young or old. I also liked how it wasn't so much about Effy fixing Ben but rather Effy giving Ben the strength and ability to fix himself. Jessica didn't simplify mental health and I'm glad she didn't fall into the trap of the cure being simple. 

I thought there were a good selection of characters. Ben had a good balance of arrogance and vulnerability and I liked how the cause of his anxiety was revealed bit by bit as the story progressed rather than in one go. 

Effy did us girls proud- a career women who put her morals and ambitions above all else. It was nice to see a successful female character who valued her own ambitions.

All in all it was a brilliant book that could easily have been a typical love story. But what Jessica did was show that not all love is simple and that anyone can suffer with mental illness and it isn't always easy to recover.


Sunday 14 September 2014

Isla and the Happily Ever After- Stephanie Perkins

This is the third offering from Stephanie in the Anna and the French Kiss trilogy. It takes us back to the school in Paris where we get to catch up with Josh- the friend of St Clair, Meredith, Anna and Rashni- who has been left behind to complete school without them. We are also introduced to Isla who briefly appeared in Anna's story where we learnt of her crush on Josh. The story follows her and Josh's relationship and how they will cope with Josh's flippant attitude towards education and how they will remain together following school with the prospect of living on opposite sides of the Atlantic.

I liked Isla, she lacked the witty humour of Anna and the outlandish personality and confidence of Lola, but to me she was much easier to relate to because of it. I felt as though she was the sort of girl who goes unnoticed, and I liked her for that. To me she was the most 'normal' of the three girls, she was the sort of girl I would have been if I were to appear in a Stephanie Perkins novel.

I enjoyed getting to know Josh a bit more and I was pleasantly surprised. Although he had appeared in Anna and the French Kiss, the majority of the time was spent with his tongue down Rashni's throat. He is the brooding arty type and I could see exactly why Isla harboured such a big crush on him. It was nice to see Isla come out of her shell as the book progressed and due to the first person narrative I felt as though I was inside her head and she was a brilliant example of the fact that quiet people can have loud thoughts. The narrative allowed the reader to know things that she would never have said aloud and consequently created a much more rounded character.

My favourite part was of course the bringing together of all the characters. I can't deny that I internally squealed when Cricket and Lola reappeared (they are my favourite couple), and whilst I do find Anna and St Clair's relationship a bit sickly, I was also glad to see them.

Isla and the Happily Ever After was a brilliant ending to a brilliant trilogy, I gulped it down in one sitting and now I am just sad that I haven't got another one to go to!


Thursday 11 September 2014

Three Little Words- Jessica Thompson

Three Little Words- a book about love. Oh how first impressions can be deceiving. The front cover and title arise expectations of some soppy love story full of unspoken feelings and racing hearts. But this book is not at all like that. Yes, it is a book about love but ultimately it is a book about forgiveness and pain, with an ending that makes you wonder whether 'I love you' really are those three words the title hints at. Ultimately 'I forgive you' can mean more than a declaration of love.

The story is an interwoven tale of four women whose lives are all altered on one fateful night. It is a tale of their journey to forgive and set free daemons that hang over them. The story is centered around Bryony, happy in love, her life is changed beyond belief by that night. Then there is Rachel who is a thriving ballet dancer, struggling to cement her identity until she finds something out that causes her to question her entire life. There is Sara who believes she is happily married until she uncovers something that puts her marriage into uncertainty. Finally there is Tynice who is struggling to forgive her son after a dreadful incident. The reader follows the lives of these women as they struggle to come to terms with their circumstances and as they learn that their forgiveness may well be the release from it.

(Oh dear you wouldn't believe how hard that synopsis was to write without revealing any spoilers! I haven't been able to do the story line justice, I recommend you just read the book!)

At first I was overwhelmed with the number of character who attempted to take centre stage. But once I got my head around it they fell into place nicely. I was further confused by the jumping around of dates, each chapter followed a different character and the dates weren't always sequential. This was a minor issue, but on top of the long line of characters, it was just another aspect that confused me.  I felt that Sara and Toms story line did nothing for the plot and equally Rachel's had no real significance to the central story line. Although both Sara and Rachel had a brief relevance to Bryonys story line, I didn't feel like it was enough to justify their large role in the book. Part of me wishes that the book had focused on just Bryony as I would have liked to have got to know her a bit more. I also liked Tynice who I felt was a really raw character torn between loyalty, guilt and shame.

I had previously read This Is A Love Story which I now know was likened to One Day. Sadly I don't think any of Jesscia's books quite stand up to One Day, although One Day holds a special place in my heart that any other book would struggle to compete for. This was a brilliant book that fought to stay away from Chick Lit stereotype and succeeded. There was a brilliant balance of love, forgiveness as well as a hint of crime that gave the book a twist that puts it a step ahead of your average Chick Lit. I only wish someone had thought more about the cover, given it a bit of edge, it is a book I would have easily walked by and not given a second thought.

Overall I really did enjoy it! It was a quick read and there were some really good characters. I look forward to starting Paper Swans.


Wednesday 10 September 2014

As creative as I get!

I am not the arty type, I have no flare when it comes to producing beautiful things out of abstract materials, my portraits never have a likeness and I can barely colour within the lines. Painting by numbers was always my limit. But recently I picked up some plain brown notebooks from Paperchase and Muji and I wanted to personalise them. A couple of years ago I bought a set of alphabet stamps from Paperchase and some red ink so I decided to print some lovely bookish quotes onto the front covers. Here are my attempts, I am really happy with how they look! 

I know it is nothing special and it required no skill or effort but I think it turned what is essentially a boring notebook into something a bit more interesting. 

I would love to know what you think! 


Friday 5 September 2014

Lola and the boy next door: Stephanie Perkins

Lola is a teen with ambitions of becoming a clothes designer. Every street is her catwalk and every outfit is as extravagant as the last. She is happy with boyfriend Max who her parents ardently disapprove of due to a slightly inappropriate age gap. Everything is going well for her until the Bell twins move back in next door. There is Cricket, the boy she had harboured a crush on for years and Calliope his resentful twin sister. How will Lola cope with their reappearance in her life?

What Stephanie has done is turn a typical teen romance into a not so typical teen romance. Lola and the boy next door. It sounds like it should fall into every stereotype, right? I expected Lola to be a typical all American girl, blonde hair, cheer leader, sights set on an Ivy League college. I expected Cricket to be some tall, broad, handsome jock. But they didn't fall into any of the stereotypes. Instead Lola was quirky and enigmatic, I loved her adventurous outfits which despite no visual aids, were as clear in my mind as any picture. I liked that her parents were a gay couple but they weren't camp, they were just normal guys- I felt Stephanie wrote them well and once again avoided stereotypes. I also thought Cricket was written well, this awkward, expressive boy with too long limbs and a ready smile. Maybe not the sort of guy you find girls swooning over but he was perfect to Lola and I felt that in the writing. 

I was happy to see Anna and St Clair reappear and I was glad to see they were as in love as ever. It was a brilliant follow up to Anna and the French Kiss and if a good teen romance is your kind of book then I urge you to go out and buy it! 


Thursday 4 September 2014

If I Stay- film review

Mia Hall has reached a crossroads in her life, will she head off to Julliard in New York to fulfil a childhood dream or will she stay at home with rocker boyfriend, Adam. But suddenly she is thrown into a whole new situation and she has one decision to make- will she stay? (Cryptic I know!) 

If you have read my book review of If I Stay then you will know that I wasn't particularly captivated by it. So I didnt go into the cinema with high hopes. Sadly I was dissapointed for a second time.

The film was actually a very true adaptation of the book. I felt as though every major point was covered and all of the characters were true to how they were in the book. In fact I can't fault the adaptation at all. For me it just wasn't exciting, it was predictable and I hate to say it, but I got a bit bored. But for me, this was no different from the book which I also felt lacked excitement. Also the film didn't get any emotional reaction from me, which is a major fault considering the premise of the story. I don't know if this was a fault in the acting or characters but I felt no emotional attachment. I felt that Moretzs reaction to her circumstance wasn't believable and therefore I found it really hard to sympathise with her. 

If there is one thing I enjoyed it would be the soundtrack. There were a brilliant selection of songs and maybe I will purchase the soundtrack but I definitely won't be buying the DVD. 

I didn't get any pleasure from disliking the book and film of If I Stay, in fact I really wanted to enjoy it, but sadly I didn't. I am sure this is an unpopular opinion and many people will have enjoyed both the film and book. Please let me know in the comments whether or not you enjoyed it!


Anna and the French Kiss- Stephanie Perkins

Anna is sent to Paris to study for a year before she goes off to college- the city of lights renowned for romance and love, but Anna doesn't see it like that. Anna is resentful and angry to be leaving behind best friend Bridgette and heart throb of the moment- Toph (a ridiculous nickname for Christopher). Anna arrives in a foreign city, knowing no more that Oui and Merci, but she soon finds her place amongst a group of friends- Meredith, Josh, Rashmi and of course, Etienne St Clair- a British...French...American...oh who knows...boy who goes by his last name and manages to capture the heart of homesick Anna despite a considerable lack in the height department- a feature that is brought up many a time throughout the book.

I liked Anna from the word go, she was feisty yet innocent and everything that I would expect of a teenage girl. I liked that she had a good sense of humour and she held her own again the boys when it would have been easy to write a female character without a backbone. Sadly I felt as though she lost this in the later part of the book as her whole being came to be about her obsession with St Clair. I felt as though I lost the Anna that I had so enjoyed reading about and I didn't like how she turned from strong and feisty to weak and lovesick within a matter of pages, I don't think that it was necessary for Anna to turn in to what is arguably a stereotypical girl in love, I would have liked it if Anna could have subverted the stereotype. I also couldn't stand how she started to refer to St Clair by his first name, I understand the intention but it just made me cringe.

At first I wanted to dislike St Claire- I mean who goes by their surname? To me it came across as a bit pretentious but I warmed to him very quickly despite it. All the characters had good humour and many of them stood out in their own right. I believed that Anna loved St Clair and I believed he loved her too. The only part that fell short for me was Anna's obsession with Toph, I didn't really believe it and therefore I found it hard to sympathise when she encountered difficulties with her 'relationship' with him.

Overall I really did enjoy the book, I devoured it within a couple of hours and that is always a sign of a good book. Also despite the odd occasion where the characters made me squirm with embarrassment, I have come to the conclusion that teen life and teen love is all about embarrassing yourself and a good teen romance wouldn't be complete without a few cringe inducing moments! The book is full of angst and drama but isn't that what teen life is all about?