‘After You’ Review

‘After You’ Review

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I can’t believe how long it’s taken to me to sit down and read this book! I absolutely bloody loved ‘Me Before You’ – it was so beautifully heartbreaking,u and the film adaptation was so brilliantly done. I bought this sequel after it came out, but it’s been sat on my bookshelf since. Then I saw another book was coming out, and decided it was finally time to throw myself back into Lou Clark’s world.

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I’d forgotten how much I loved Lou as a character – her dialogue was absolutely hilarious, and despite how upset she was after Will’s death, these funny passages really helped to lighten the overall feel of the narrative. I was honestly sat there in stitches when I was reading, it was so damn funny! Lou’s somewhat dysfunctional family were one of my favourite aspects to the novel, because of how lighthearted their dialogue was. Plus some of Lou’s inner dialogue and observations of the things happening around her really helped to add to the humour, and gave a much needed reprieve from some of the more emotional aspects to the narrative.

It’s been a while since I’ve read ‘Me Before You’, but the raw emotions that ran through this novel when Lou was feeling down or at her most hopeless was so beautifully done. You couldn’t help but sympathise with her, and want her to better herself. Not to mention the fact that this novel went in a completely different direction to where I thought it was going – I thought that after the ending of the previous book, we would find Lou living her awesome life. I was so sad for her when I read about what happened after Will’s death, that she let her grief get the better of her and land her right back to where she was in the beginning of the first novel. Jojo Moyes captured this grief wonderfully, as of course everyone processes stuff differently.

Her characterisation was so spot on! Moyes really has a knack for making her characters come to life on the page. Lily was such a vibrant, complicated character, and it was so easy to fall in love with her. You felt so in tune with Lou’s own impressions of the chaos that Lily intermittently brought into her life, and wanted her to escape from her demons to live a happy fulfilling life. Plus Sam was such an adorable character – Moyes perfectly confused us with his introduction, leading us to believe he was the “compulsive shagger” that Lou believed him to be, and I was genuinely shocked when Moyes revealed he wasn’t the character we thought he was. That was so well done! You really wanted to shake Lou at points, screaming “You’re allowed to be happy!” at the page. Lou in herself was such a loveable character that it almost felt like I was just reading this book straight after reading the first one. I just loved reading her story so much!

Moyes is such a brilliant writer – she effortlessly showed Lou’s character progression on the page, and the plot was absolutely perfect. You wanted to see Lou succeed, and it was such a heartfelt warming read! I definitely won’t be leaving it 4 years before I read the next novel! Moyes has a clear understanding of her characters and her story, and is definitely a worthwhile read. Plus I was so happy with the adaptation of the ‘Me Before You’ novel – I really hope this novel is followed up with an adaptation, too!

Overall I would give the novel a 5/5 because it would have you laughing one minute, and then feeling crying another. This was such a beautiful novel, and is well worth a read if you’ve read ‘Me Before You’!

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‘The Good Girls’ Review

‘The Good Girls’ Review

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I was so disapppointed with the ending to the previous book in this duology, ‘The Perfectionists’, that I kind of didn’t want to read this sequel for a bit. Though I remembered how much I’d enjoyed reading about the various characters, so decided to give it another go. Plus there’s nothing more irritating than a cliff hanger, especially when it seems a bit of a cop out as far as endings go.

Overall this was a good read, and I’m glad I picked it up again – I loved the mystery surrounding the girls and the various people on their film studies list who ended up dead, and the suspicion over who the killer might be. I did enjoy reading about all the individual characters’ lives, though this did feel a tad hollow compared to the first book in the duology. It was nice to see characters like Mackenzie coming out of her shell, though this whole novel did feel a bit like a tack on to the first book.

I didn’t see that plot twist coming at the end, either! I was left gaping at the page when Sara Shepard revealed who the murderer was, though the excuse that she used to make it plausible was a bit far fetched. Plus that mysterious ending left you wondering whether there might be more to follow from these characters, though I’m not sure how Shepard would do this.

It was a nice read, though the string of murders did seem a tad random. I can’t help but wonder whether I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have done if I hadn’t been left feeling so disappointed in the ending to the first book. I did like Shepard’s characters, and you couldn’t help but pity some of them because of their sad backgrounds – mainly Parker and Julie. I think that if Shepard had just made the first book longer, and included a condensed version of this second book in it, the whole story would have had more of an impact on the reader. I bloody loved the first one, and I think if Shepard had kept stringing us along for a slightly longer book, it would have been one stonker of a novel.

I’m going to give it a 3/5 because it was a nice easy read, but it could have been done so much better after how good the first book was. That was a pretty good ending to this second book, though!

‘Tower of Dawn’ Review

‘Tower of Dawn’ Review

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Normally I like to space out books I’m reading in a series, mostly to give my brain a break, and also so I can savour the world and story more. Though after that absolute stonker of an ending to ‘Empire of Storms’, I had to leap into this novel next.

We didn’t get any kind of answer to that cliffhanger from the last novel, but in a way this novel was a bit of a palate cleanser from the rest of the series. I really love Chaol’s character, and it was so awesome to see he had his own book! As much as I can sometimes find Aelin irritating, I do really love all of her other characters. I fell in love with Yrene almost as soon as she was introduced to us – she came across as such a strong bad ass character, and I loved it! You couldn’t help but love the romance between Yrene and Chaol, though it was a bit obvious that was going to happen. Plus you kept feeling sorry for Nesryn, as it felt a bit like Chaol had just been stringing her along until a better offer appeared. He was such an ignorant git about her worry for her family too, that you wanted to shake him and tell him to get a grip. Or at least to tell Nesryn where they stood rather than keep her locked in whatever their relationship to one another was.

The story was really intriguing – I loved the setting we found ourselves in, and the mystery of what happened to princess Tumelun. It did feel like S J Maas was setting up some of the Valg’s backstory which will turn out to be key in the next and final novel in the series, but the mystery was sometimes a bit frustrating. I never guessed that revelation of who had been possessed by the Valg, either! That was really beautifully done, and Maas kept you guessing right up until the last minute. I liked the setting of the ruk riders, and it was really nice for Nesryn to find her own happy ending. To be honest she did feel a bit of a random incarnation in the fourth book, almost like she was shoved in just to give Chaol a partner, so it was nice to see her find her own resolution.

Maas did a good job of keeping the mystery going right up until the last minute, while also painting a picture of what was happening to these characters. The pacing was really well done, and Maas set up the final novel in this series beautifully. I can’t wait to find out what happens in the end! As much as I’ve had my ups and downs with this series, I’m so excited to find out where Maas is going to take this. I loved Aelin/Celaena so much in the beginning, but I’ve come to love a vast majority of her characters a lot more.

It was so nice to see Chaol and Yrene end up in the good place they did at the end of the novel, and you really wanted Yrene to find out it was Aelin who helped her all those years ago. I haven’t read the prequel stories, but it was fairly obvious that was who Maas kept referencing. Overall I would give this novel a 4/5, because it was a good palate cleanser to lead us into the finale of the series. Here’s to hoping the final novel turns out to be a good one!

The Year of Productivity

The Year of Productivity

This is going to be my writing year, dammit. This is the same promise I make to myself every New Years eve. “This is the year I’m going to be published.” Though I’ve had the same novel sat in a folder virtually untouched since the last few months when I finished it back in June 2016. In November 2016 I finally succeeded in completing NaNoWriMo, which made me realise that whole completing a novel thing wasn’t a fluke. On the 31st December that same year, as the clocks struck 12, I made myself that promise: “This is the year I’m going to be published.”

2017 trundled along. Life got in the way; job hunting ensued, flat hunting too, and then moving around the country until I finally settled in somewhere new. To my shame, the most writing I got done all year was for NaNoWriMo 2017 – virtually the only time I picked up my pen. When I talked to some of my uni friends who had also attempted the annual writing challenge, they all said the same thing: what we’d learned from that year’s NaNoWriMo was that actually once we sat down to do even just a little bit of writing, we were on the right track. Because then we had more words written down than we had to begin with. Which was a start, I guess. Better than I’d done all year, to be honest.

I really thought I wasn’t going to finish NaNo last year – I ended up flat hunting half way through November, which meant that by the time I’d moved in on the 25th, I still had just under half a novel to write if I was going to finish on time. Though thanks to the lack of internet or tv box – a blessing in disguise – I managed to sit down every night after work and crack out the 22,000 words I needed to complete NaNo on time. I was pleasantly shocked – I really hadn’t thought I’d be able to do it. In 2016, I was writing during lesson times because the girl I supported only needed support when she was throwing a strop and refusing to go to lessons. So when she decided to behave, it meant I had a lot of free time to get on with NaNo. In 2017, I had a proper 9 to half 5 job where I had to do proper work. It’s nice to use my brain, don’t get me wrong, but that meant a heck of a lot less time to do any writing. Even though I had less time, I was actually a hell of a lot more productive.

Thankfully, I’ve learnt somewhat from my mistakes of procrastination and this productivity has carried over into 2018. I sat down to write a ranty writing project, and blinked at the end of it when it looked like I’d written over 22,000 words. On something that wasn’t even serious writing. Not only that, but I felt inspired to do a lot more creative writing, which can only be a good thing. When I looked back at some New Years writing resolutions I’d made last January, I noticed that I’d made one to write at least two more novels (which didn’t happen). I felt like kicking myself! When I’d actually made myself sit down to write, I managed to get a decent amount of writing done. Just thinking of all those months when I didn’t do anything writing wise, when I could have made myself sit down and get something on paper, was so frustrating.

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So here is to making 2018 my year of productivity! Here are my writing goals:

1) Actually sit down to write. Try to get at least 10,000 words written by the end of each month.

2) Work on various projects, and try to build up a variety of media, e.g. short stories, a novel, maybe finally work on that graphic novel that’s been in my head since I was 14…

3) Actually type up some of the stuff I’ve got written down in notebooks – for example the last two NaNoWriMo novels – and attempt to edit them.

4) Send something off to agents!

Let’s hope that I don’t look back in January 2019 kicking myself for letting this inspiration slip…

 

Average total wordcount for January: 22,000.

Tilly Toyota

Tilly Toyota

I’m so sorry, little car. This was the last thing I wanted. When I dropped you off at that garage, I really did think I’d be driving you home again after work. These past two weeks or so have been horrible, knowing that I’m never going to get to drive you again.

People took one look at your scuffed paintwork and sneered, but you meant much more to me than some peeling paint. You were important to me because I had paid for you entirely myself – I hadn’t had to borrow money or rely on someone, and you were entirely mine. Besides, that paint got me £200 knocked off your asking price. I didn’t care about the fact you sometimes didn’t quite want to go into reverse, or that your central locking sometimes wouldn’t work if I turned the key the wrong way. I didn’t care that you would sometimes decide not to open your boot, or that you had a tape deck, or that you were slow to accelerate and didn’t really like going up hills. I didn’t care about any of that, Tilly, because to me you were the best car there ever was. People looked down on you because of your age, but I didn’t care. It was you and me against the world.

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We’ve had some adventures, haven’t we? When Tom test drove you for me I was sat bouncing in the passenger seat, and he rolled his eyes at me and said, “You’d be happy with a skip on wheels.” It took me a while to get used to your gearbox, but then we went all over the place. We moved to Colwyn Bay after I’d graduated from uni to live with Mistake #1, but then we soon came back home again. We took my Grandma to see Beysey in the hospital up until I started my new job, and then you took me to that, too.

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I hated that damn rock.

Can you remember that rock that killed your tyre? We ended up being two hours late for work, which was annoying, but I should have seen it lying there in the road. We went visiting friends all over the place… Mostly my uni friends while some of them were in Bangor for their fourth year, and we’d decided to go to the beach – and then I found that shell that one of them had left in the back!

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I don’t know why they left that shell there, but it sat on your dashboard ever since then.

Then came Birmingham, when my contract was running out on that first proper adult job. I didn’t get on with the job, so you were taking me home eventually nearly every weekend. That’s a four hour drive each way, but you did it because you were such a badass little car. You ended up driving me and Mistake #2 around an awful lot too, and you were there with me when I said I wasn’t going to put up with any controlling behaviour any more.

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Us chillin’ outside Abbie’s when we house sat for the Jones’.

Then there was this current awesome job – you helped me move in with Tom’s parents, and then you drove me to work every day even though it was an hour in each direction. You helped me move into my little flat, and I hadn’t even thought about your oil. I’d checked it before Birmingham, but that was back in April. Even though you started to be a little slow to start in the mornings, you still drove me around everywhere just fine, because that’s how awesome you were. My awesome little car. I was horrified when Tom told me to check your oil after you started making that funny noise and found it empty. I filled it up as soon as I found out, and you drove Abbie and I to Beysey’s funeral, but I knew I’d have to take you to see someone. Someone who actually knew something about cars.

I was devastated, little car, when I walked into that garage after work and they said they couldn’t get you started. A service was all you’d need, they said. You’d be driving even better after that, they said. I rang back the next day and he said they couldn’t figure out what was wrong with you. And the next. By Friday, they’d tried to wipe their hands of you, and the next week they had someone else ring me to say what had gone wrong. Your timing chain, apparently, and there was no point in fixing you. You needed a new engine, but you were too old to warrant spending the money. I could hear it in his voice, that sneer – “She’s too old. She’s not worth it.” You were never just an old useless car to me. You served me well little car, and I’m so sorry I let you down. I left it until the next week to phone someone to come and get you, and then it was over. You were gone.

Mum had been nagging me since before Christmas to get a new car, but I couldn’t face doing that because it felt like betraying you. I’ve got Yogi now, and he is pretty awesome, but you were the best damn car I could have wished for.

Thanks for everything, little car. You gave me independence, and that meant more to me than you’ll ever know.

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You were such an awesome little car.

 

 

‘Empire of Storms’ Review

‘Empire of Storms’ Review

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This series and I have had our ups and downs, but I was really craving to be immersed back in Sarah J Maas’ world when I picked up this novel. And boy, I wasn’t disappointed! I really loved Celaena’s character when I first read ‘Throne of Glass‘, but then throughout some of the other books she came across as this really Mary Sue style character that was more annoying than anything – though because Maas gradually introduced chapters from other characters I stuck with the series. Plus Aelin did start to grow on me more in ‘Queen of Shadows‘ and more so again in ‘Empire of Storms’ – what had grated on me in the other books was the fact that she was such an arrogant character who seemed to do no wrong, and it was hard to like her at points. Aelin/Celaena redeemed herself in this latest installment, though.

One thing that really stands out for me in this series is the setting – I really love this supernatural/fantasy setting! You just get such a vivid feel for it; you can clearly picture all of it in your head. Maas always manages to surprise me with her pacing, too. Mass will introduce a plot point that you think is going to drag out over several books, but then she whacks another plot point out at you from the sidelines towards the end of the book to leave you gaping. She did it at the end of ‘Queen of Shadows’, by getting rid of the immediate threat of the King of Adarlan which had been built up over the four books – it was so unexpected! And then comes this real shocker of an ending… Wow. Just, wow. Plus the fact that the next book in the series follows Chaol rather than Aelin (which I’m making my way through at the moment) is helping to build up the tension. That ending made me fall in love with Aelin all over again, and I can’t wait to find out how this series ends!

Maas has this unfaltering ability to create such varied and interesting characters! I absolutely adore all of her characters. For a minute I thought I was going to fall out with this series when I was reading Manon’s story – I have such a soft spot for Manon and Abraxos – though Maas rescued it at the last minute. Manon has got everything I loved about Celaena before she turned annoying. I really loved reading about Elide and Lochan, too. My only criticism of this vast array of characters was it did feel a bit like absolutely everyone was pairing up. It just felt a tad unrealistic. Plus, as much as I love all of these characters, it could sometimes feel like there was a bit much going on, or that some characters weren’t getting as much exposure as they deserved. I still really like them all, though, and it was nice to see how all of their individual storylines progressed.

Plus that ending, man. Just wow. I didn’t see that coming, and was left gaping at the page because I was so stunned. I’m really curious to see where Maas is going to take the next section in the story… I am loving the next novel so far at the moment, but as far as I’m aware Aelin and all of those other characters don’t feature. Talk about a cliffhanger! Though I think it’ll build up the tension well for when Aelin does come back. It’ll be interesting to see if this latest development will break her spirit, or if I’ll see more of that original spark that I loved so much about her character.

Overall I would give it a 5/5, because the pacing was so well done, and I loved all the little snippets from all of the different characters, and just really loved it as a novel. I can’t wait to see what Maas has got next in store for Aelin and her friends!

‘IT’ Review

‘IT’ Review

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Well, it’s taken me just over two weeks, but I’ve FINALLY finished reading Stephen King‘s ‘IT’! I really wanted to try and read this before the adaptation came out in September, but that didn’t happen. One of my uni friends said he’d read it and found it really disappointing, but I was determined to read it anyway. Though it soon became apparent that it was another one of those ‘War and Peace’ books – where you’re better off just watching the film if you want to know what happens.

I really wanted to like ‘IT‘, but this novel was so long and arduous that I was more relieved that it was over once I’d finished it. One thing King was really good at was building the tension – dropping little hints along the way of stuff that was going to happen, filling you with doubt that the protagonists would manage to pull through and defeat IT. What I found really disorienting was the fact that I’d seen both adaptations before I read the book – and the book followed no chronological order. The narrative kept flipping between the characters as adults, and the characters as children, which meant that by the time King had built up the tension in one timeline, this was detracted by flipping to the other timeline. It was incredibly frustrating, as it meant the story was progressing a hell of a lot slower than it did on screen.

I particularly loved the 2017 film adaptation, so was surprised to see that we don’t see all of the children’s storylines first, and then go into the adult’s storylines. I can vaguely remember the adults being involved in the 90s tv mini series, but that jarred with the rest of the story because it felt so random and out of place. That’s partly why I enjoyed the more recent adaptation so much – it followed a lovely chronological pattern that made sense, and the writers adapted the story in a way that felt right. Though in hindsight it turns out that I’d only watched half of the tv miniseries adaptation – I had no idea until recently that you were meant to flip the DVD over to watch the second half. That second half was a lot closer to the book, so in terms of adaptation it was done really well, but the weak ending to the novel let it down more than anything.

I was kind of disappointed with this book. Just when you thought the story was actually beginning, King dragged out another lengthy passage about nothing that affected the overall story whatsoever, and you realised you were 900 pages in and nothing had really happened. This was incredibly slow compared to the film. Plus IT wasn’t as terrifying on the pages as IT was on the screen – all of King’s waffle really detracted from what he was trying to achieve with this novel. If he’d cut half of it, it could have been a really phenomenal novel.

So in short, just as I found when reading ‘War and Peace’ two years ago, I was better off just sticking to the film. Plus some of the plot points were just really random and made no impact on the overall story whatsoever… Like what was with that infamous child orgy scene? It made no sense, came out of nowhere, and just felt really shoehorned in. Plus King had built up this tension so well with Beverly’s adult partner Tom Rogan following her to Derry, and then that plot point never sees its conclusion! Stuff like that was scattered throughout the book and were really bloody frustrating. It was especially annoying that King wouldn’t stick to one timeline and then follow it up with another storyline, as the film and tv mini series do.

Overall, I’d give this a 2/5 – I really, really wanted to like it because I loved the 2017 film so much, but it was just too long, and there were far too many unnecessary details that could have been cut to make a much more succinct, brilliant novel. Oh well. I’ll just stick to the film next time I see a giant book sitting on the bookshelf.