‘Th1rteen R3asons Why’ Review

‘Th1rteen R3asons Why’ Review

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After watching the Netflix adaptation earlier this year, I was interested to read Jay Asher’s novel because if there’s one thing I really love, it’s adaptation. Just as in the Netflix series, Asher’s novel follows the character Clay Jensen after he discovers some tapes left on his doorstep which appear to be from Hannah Baker – a girl from his class who has recently committed suicide. On these tapes she details why she committed suicide, and that if you were listening to the tapes you were one of the reasons why.

I loved the Netflix series. It was compulsive watching for me: it hooked me right in with the whole concept, lulled a little in the middle, and then went full throttle when it got to that end point. I loved it, and after reading the novel it was based on I’m really craving watching to watch it all over again to see the comparisons between them.

Asher throws you right into the action – when Clay discovers the tapes on his doorstep. One thing I really loved, was the adaptation used pretty much the same opening dialogue that Hannah uses in the novel. I could picture the adaptation so clearly in my head throughout most of the novel because of how similar Hannah’s dialogue was – it was so damn gripping! A stylistic point of view that I absolutely adored were the play, pause, and stop symbols that were used to break up the sections of the narrative in relation to Hannah’s tapes. Both that and the interspersed interjections from Clay broke the novel up into easy digestible chunks, so I didn’t realise how much I’d read until I’d finished the chapter.

Clay is such a cute protagonist – as much as he’s trying to listen to what Hannah’s saying, he’s hurt that she could blame him for her death. One thing that did annoy me was the overshadowing of victim blaming that came from the various character’s attitudes, even Clay at points. It was almost accusing Hannah of not reaching out enough – which reminded me of what I’ve heard people say about the adaptation in relation to victim blaming. You never know what someone else is going through.

The pacing was brilliant – even though I’d watched the series adaptation and felt that there was a lull in the middle episodes, that didn’t faze me about the novel. There didn’t seem to be the same slow pace – every chapter moved smoothly into the next, a true testament to Asher’s skill as a writer.

I’m not sure if I would have loved this novel as much if I’d read it before watching the series, as parts of the filler stuff that was included in the adaptation filled in some of the background of the novel that I might have questioned had I not seen it. I might have said that some of the characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could be, though we are only seeing them through Hannah’s narrative. Her bias would cloud them, and paint them with the vicious reality that she would have seen them with.

I don’t know if I’d have been as satisfied with the ending either – it was abrupt in a sense, though you couldn’t miss the comparison between Skye’s character and Hannah’s. Almost as if the novel had come full circle, and that Clay had realised if he had also reached out to Hannah sooner, she might still have been alive. It was a beautiful comment on being caring for others, and to try and think about what other people might be going through.

I really loved this novel – it was really beautiful, and I especially loved how Asher played with form. The use of italics to showcase Hannah’s narrative as different from Clay’s was brilliant. Overall, I would give this novel a 5/5, and it’s not hard to see why this has become a cult classic.

 

http://www.thirteenreasonswhy.com/

@jayasherguy

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‘Sweet Little Lies’ Review

‘Sweet Little Lies’ Review

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This novel wasn’t quite what I was expecting. The market has been absolutely saturated with psychological thrillers – which I love, because pretty much every one I’ve read so far has been spot on. However I soon twigged a few pages in that this wasn’t the novel I thought it would be – instead it morphed into a detective mystery. Don’t get me wrong, it was good – just not what I thought it was going to be.

I’m not sure if I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t what I’d been expecting, but the middle section was a little dull. It was all necessary set up for the full throttle ending, but it did drag a little. The beginning grabbed my interest because of the protagonist Cat’s complicated relationship with her father. With the flashback sections to Cat’s childhood, Caz Frear skilfully paints a picture of suspicion. Was her father really who she thought he was?

The novel keeps coming back to this Maryanne Doyle character that Cat remembered from her childhood. She suspects that her father was involved in the girl’s disappearance from a small village in Ireland because of his suspicious behaviour at the time. As a result of her innocence being ripped to shreds because of this suspicion making her think the worst, their relationship deteriorates over the years. This sparked my interest more than the detective side to the story, as it kept coming back to connections between the newly discovered dead woman and her father.

Frear creates tension so well! The hook with the protagonist’s father kept me interested through the less intriguing bits that were necessary to set up the narrative until her main plot took over. Frear’s characterisation of Cat’s grapple with her morality is sublime: does she do as her job dictates and follow her instinct about her father, or does she stay loyal to her family and leave him be? This inner conflict was conveyed perfectly. However it was a little cliched – the tortured detective fighting to do her job and all that jazz. Due to this specific genre being so saturated, it’s so hard to find a unique spin to put on it. That being said, I really enjoyed it.

The mystery of who Alice Lapaine/Maryanne Doyle was and why she’d materialised into Cat’s adult life again was really intriguing. The pacing was brilliantly done, so that even though Frear got in the necessary detail to move her plot forward, the slower parts to the narrative weren’t there for long. While it had been slow to start off, apart from the hook about Cat’s father, once the plot picked up some pace it was a really gripping story. That latter half of the book especially made up for the beginning. Once everything slotted into place, it was a really engaging read. I did feel that there were a lot more contradictions to Cat’s character than was originally intended, especially as Frear was tackling with the character’s morality. For example, a police woman smoking weed – a small contradiction (as surely if her moral compass was truly pointing north she wouldn’t indulge in this?).

As slow as the novel was to pick up, the ending definitely made up for it. Though I’m not sure if Cat’s character could sustain a sequel or a series – part of the original hook in the blurb was the suspicion surrounding Cat’s father, and this was resolved within this one novel (essentially). That being said, it was a decent novel. I would give it a 3/5 because the ending was brilliant and I didn’t see that twist coming, but the beginning and start to the middle sections did let it down.

 

 

@CazziF

‘The Potion Diaries: Going Viral’ Review

‘The Potion Diaries: Going Viral’ Review

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I hadn’t even realised this novel was out! I love this particular series, because Sam is such a relatable interesting character that you can’t help but fall in love with her. ‘The Potion Diaries: Going Viral’ carried on virtually from where ‘Royal Tour’ ended. Sam is the only one who knows the truth about Prince Stefan, and goes on an adventure to find a cure for this mysterious disease he’s brought into Nova.

I love the story world that these novels are set in. They have that mysterious fairytale feel because of the magic and the alchemy, but a more modern contemporary feel because of the technology that the characters make use of. I really love this combination, and it really makes for a thrilling setting that I could never get tired of. I’m always eager to see what’s going to happen to Sam Kemi next!

The story was really cute – Sam doesn’t want to believe that her friend Princess Evelyn has just forgotten about her, and is determined to help her with whatever has happened to her. This is what I love, love, LOVE about these novels – Alward makes a point of exploring Sam’s friendships, and not just her relationship with Zain. I really think this is a good, positive message to pass on to younger readers. Friends and family are always there for you, and you should never forget about them just because you have a partner. The development of Sam and Zain’s relationship had a sad edge to it, but it was nice to see Alward explore her characters in depth this way. Plus it felt a more well rounded way for her to explore their character development, especially because they both dealt with the situation in such a mature way.

This novel felt shorter than the other two, but it was a nice ending to that particular section of Sam’s story. I really hope there’s going to be another Potion Diaries novel in the future, because these books are pretty awesome. This did feel like a nice bookend to the story so far, though.

I love these books. Overall I would give it a 4/5 because I really love Alward’s characters and how they develop throughout their stories. I hope to see more like this from Alward in the future!

‘Queen of the Tearling’ Review

‘Queen of the Tearling’ Review

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The last book from my library haul, this is a novel I’ve been meaning to read for ages. I’ve been hearing great things about this one, and it didn’t disappoint. If it’s got Emma Watson’s approval, it’s bound to be good!

This was a brilliant novel when it came to world building. Johansen put in so many minute details; she effortlessly created an image that you couldn’t fault her ability. There were so many details pointing towards the history of these people we were reading about, perhaps helping herself for material for future novels. You got a clear sense of setting throughout the whole novel, and as brilliant as this was it did feel very much like this whole thing was a lead up to future stories rather than a succinct standalone story in its own right.

Her overall characterisation was brilliant – not just with her protagonist Kelsea, but for all her characters, right down to Javel the Gate Guard. Johansen has a clear understanding for what motivates a character to do the things they do, and it neatly tied all her story threads together. The only thing was it felt like everything was falling into place for Kelsea too easily. The chapters with the Red Queen were interesting, but made her seem more vulnerable rather than threatening. As a result, it was hard to see why we as readers would ever question Kelsea failing in her quest to better her kingdom. The rest of the story just slotted into place nicely, and there was never any moment where you thought the antagonists were ever going to succeed.

The plot was good, and fit together well with the crescendo we’d had from the world building. There was a gritty edge to the whole story, by putting the lives of ordinary people on the line. I really liked this aspect to the narrative because you were horrified at what had been happening in the land of the Tearling while Kelsea was growing up unaware. I loved her humanity and empathy for what her people were being put through, and her fierceness made her such a likeable character. I’m excited to see her transformation throughout the other two novels.

Overall I did really like this novel, but it did feel like the stakes could have been higher towards the end. The ending was good, don’t get me wrong, but there felt to be a lack of a threat to Kelsea because the Red Queen’s narrative made it clear her particular story was coming to and end and that Kelsea was going to be the one to end it. Plus when we learn about Barty and Carlin it hit me right in the feels. I would give it a 4/5 because it was very good, and Johansen has clearly got plenty of skill – I just feel it was missing that something extra that would have made me love it even more.

 

 

http://queenofthetearlingtrilogy.tumblr.com

 

‘A Very Accidental Love Story’ Review

‘A Very Accidental Love Story’ Review

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This was another library haul book; I’d previously read Claudia Caroll’s novel ‘Personally I Blame My Fairy Godmother’, which was funny from what I can remember of it, so I decided to give this novel a go. I know many people turn their nose up at women’s fiction, or “chick lit”, but I’ll say the same thing to them that I ranted about in uni when my snobby English lecturers sneered. There is a reason genre fiction sells! Sometimes, all you need is a novel where you don’t have to think much when you read it. You can just switch off. Plus when it comes to genre fiction, generally you know what to expect when you pick it up.

Bearing this in mind, ‘A Very Accidental Love Story’ did exactly what it said on the tin. It was a nice romance to switch off to, and it was quite predictable as to what was going to happen. This didn’t make it a stand out novel, because it didn’t really subvert any expectations I had from it, but you can’t fault it’s honesty for being what it said it was. I liked the story, and it was quite sweet to see Eloise’s character develop throughout the novel.

The only thing that was grating was the sheer number of typos – which just distract you from the story. It would be the typical missing off a letter which changed the tense of the word, or a missing connective altogether. You did know what Caroll was trying to say, but it was a little distracting all the same. The only other thing that you could really criticise this novel for was its predictability, but when it is a novel from this genre the predictability is partly why you even picked it up in the first place. What I did really like about it was that Eloise didn’t set out to find romance – she was trying to do what was best for her daughter. It was only towards the middle to latter half of the novel when the romance started to trickle in, which made it more endearing as it wasn’t in your face all the time. Yes, we did know it was going to happen – the title being a huge giveaway – but it didn’t feel like Eloise’s life revolved around that particular plot point which was nice.

One thing Caroll gets right consistently is the tone of voice in her characters. Mainly with Eloise, but her characterisation is brilliant with all the characters we meet. The language she uses really adds to the comedic effect of her writing, but this came across better through Eloise’s perspective. The only other thing that annoyed me was Lily’s dialogue – it came across as if Caroll was trying too hard to impress on readers how young her character was. The added ‘w’s to words were more annoying that anything, and it felt like Caroll was trying to dress down adult sentences with them rather than write what a 3 year old would actually talk like.

The story was really sweet, though I do wonder at the possibility of Jake’s character being so nice and clean cut as he was with the past he had. I can’t help but wonder if he would have been a bit more morally askew with this troubled background. Overall it was an enjoyable story, even if a little predictable. I would give it a 3/5 because it did its job, but didn’t really push itself to be a better novel. As I said before though, with this genre this is what you’d expect to find from a novel like this.

 

 

‘Picture Me Gone’ Review

‘Picture Me Gone’ Review

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I love Meg Rosoff as a writer. I read her debut novel, ‘How I Live Now’ when it first came out and loved it, and have continued to buy her books throughout the years when I saw them on the bookshelves. I will never get over the heart wrenching plot twist at the end of ‘What I Was’, by far my favourite novel of hers.

‘Picture Me Gone’ was another library haul book – I hadn’t actually heard of this one before, but knowing I like Rosoff’s stuff I picked it up. One unusual thing Rosoff did with her prose in this particular novel was that there was no formal dialogue. Rosoff didn’t include speech marks in her writing, and instead filtered the dialogue in with her first person narrative. This was an interesting concept, and really reinforced the idea of this being a younger protagonist of 12 years old. However, it was a little confusing at times, as at certain points it was unclear as to what was dialogue and what was the character simply describing characters around her.

The characterisation was interesting, and I did at points question whether the protagonist was intended to be autistic – due to the paying attention to things other people wouldn’t question, and then being able to connect the dots to guess at what was going on in that person’s life.

The story was cute – the protagonist, Mila, goes on a road trip to America with her father to try and find his old friend. The plot was almost an examination of the relationships people have with one another, from Mila’s best friend back home, to her relationship with her parents, to Matthew’s relationship with his wife after the tragic loss of their older son.

The ending really made this novel, as you didn’t see the plot twist coming. Plus as nice as this story was, and the dark twist at the end really uplifted the overall story, this particular novel was a little lacklustre compared to some of Rosoff’s other novels I’ve read. I enjoyed it, but it was a little disappointing when I know Rosoff can do so much better. Overall I’d give it a 3/5.

 

 

http://www.megrosoff.co.uk/

 

‘The Other Us’ Review

‘The Other Us’ Review

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This is another novel I picked up in the library. For some reason I thought it was a debut novel – I have no idea why – but apparently Fiona Harper has actually written quite a few books. This was the first one I read by her; I was intrigued by the premise, but after reading it I have a few mixed feelings.

At first I loved the concept – the protagonist Maggie is stuck in an unhappy marriage, and finds herself catapulted back in time to the weeks before her now husband proposed in university, giving her a chance to change some key decisions she made. A really interesting concept, but then I didn’t particularly like it so much after some of Maggie’s decision making.

Harper further complicated this idea by introducing several realities that ran along side one another, which brought back feelings I’d had about a similar novel, ‘The Versions of Us’ by Laura Barnett – which had a similar parallel realities theme. However all of these different things happening to the same characters in these different timelines was just too confusing, and I hated that particular novel as a result. Which was a shame, but at this point ‘The Other Us’ started to sing the same tune. Though what made this novel different was the protagonist was aware of these different changes every time she ‘jumped’ realities.

I found myself feeling frustrated with some of her choices – choosing to abandon her future husband for an old flame she knew before they were married. It might be me being old fashioned, but even though we knew at the start of the novel Maggie was in an unhappy marriage it still frustrated me to see her spurn her future husband. Especially as we are repeatedly told how happy they were in the beginning, and this was shown in one of the alternate realities to which she chose the other man, Jude. I had the feeling we were meant to like Jude, and be as intoxicated with their extravagant relationship as Maggie herself was – however he just came across as an arrogant git so I really hated these sections of the novel.

So the novel lost me a bit in the middle, and it was a tad confusing when Maggie swapped between realities. Though the latter half of the novel was so much better. It felt more like an examination of Maggie as a character, and her maturing as these realities progressed to her further in life. The ending kind of redeemed the middle stuff, but not enough to claw it up to a higher rating. Plus there were a hell of a lot of typos for such a seasoned author, and especially considering this was traditionally published! I know the publishing team aren’t going to catch every mistake, but there were quite a few more than there should have been.

Overall this was an alright novel – the beginning was promising, then it drifted into the realms of the annoying, and ended with a semi-redeeming finish. I would give it a 3/5 – the ending was really sweet, but to get a higher rating it should have stayed this standard through out.

 

http://www.fionaharper.com/home

@FiHarper_Author