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Monday 26 January 2015

Marly's Ghost by David Leviathan [Review]

Written by: David Levithan.
Published by: Electric Monkey.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 8th January 2015.
Rating: 2/5.

Official synopsis: "A remix of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with a Valentine’s twist... When Ben’s girlfriend, Marly, dies, he feels his life is over and the prospect of Valentine’s day without her fills him with bitterness. But then Marly arrives – or at least, her ghost does – along with three other spirits. Now Ben must take a journey through Valentines past, present and future – and what he learns will change him forever.


Oh man, I really do not know where to start with this one. I really don't. I hate writing reviews like this, I really do, First off, let me say that me and David Levithan have a very, VERY, on off relationship. The first work of his that I read was Boy Meets Boy which I really did not like... Then his second piece of work that I read was Two Boys Kissing and I would never of accredited the two books to the same author. Ever. Two Boys Kissing was life-affirming, incredible, stunning and my favourite book of 2013. So I entered Marly's Ghost with some trepidation, wondering whether this was going to be a repeat of my time with Boy Meets Boy  or with Two Boys Kissing.

Sadly it appears to be the former... 

From the start I found Marly's Ghost really jarring. I just couldn't take in what was happening. I struggled to retain information. Dialogue. Key plot points. In fact half way through I had to put it aside and try to recall what I could remember. I know the book is supposed to be, and is marketed as, a remix/rehash of the Charles Dickens classic A Christmas Carol, so I knew this when I started the book. But I didn't expect it to be so similar. Then when I read the author notes/acknowledgements it became clear that this was intentional, that Levithan actually wrote the book whilst reading A Christmas Carol and went through it page by page, paragraph by paragraph... He then proceeded to re-write it to give it a modern twist... But the modern twist is entirely lacking. These are teenagers who we're reading about and yet their dialogue is so jarring, so Victorian and I struggled with this. It just didn't feel right to me and often put me off.

Something I also found highly annoying and mildly offensive if I'm honest, is the complete and utter lack of compassion. Four months is a relatively short space of time, especially when you consider that a loved one has passed away. This is a story about first love that ends in tragedy and understandably our male lead, Ben, is grieving and quite heavily. Four months. And yet his friends are treating him like some kind of mad man. Some have given up on trying to include him in their plans while others are either on the cusp of giving up or still willing to put the effort in. I found this quite unsettling. Four months when you lose anyone you love is an INCREDIBLY short space of time, a very raw time that is a minefield of good and bad days, in my experience anyway having lost several family members. I just cannot describe how angry this aspect of the story actually made me. At one point, I actually almost threw my Kindle that I was reading it on across the room. I was so annoyed I didn't care if it broke I just wanted to stop the book there and then - I'm not going to say what point it was because it is a big spoiler for anyone that wants to read the book... Let's just say that it involves the final spirit... Oh man I raged!

But I am a believer that if you start something you should finish it, and I don't like putting a book down half way and never finishing it. I always wonder if there might be a redeeming factor lying in wait at the end. Sadly, no. The ending is a sugar-coated sickening shower of love as Ben tries to spread the message that love is great and that you need to move on. I know, as well, that Levithan is well known for his portrayal of LGBT characters but the couple we meet in this book felt so unnecessary. They didn't make sense in the story and the whole thing just felt so off.

Overall I think it is safe to say I was disappointed with this book. Greatly disappointed. Part of me wants to attempt another of Levithan's works, I have heard wonderful things about Everyday but I am worried that with my history with his works it'll be a pointless exercise. We shall see.

Saturday 3 January 2015

This Book Is Gay by James Dawson [Review]

NB - I don't know what took me so long to review this, I read it just after it came out and absolutely adored it and I had meant to review it but my list of things to do grew and grew and overtook me... Oh well, better late than never, right?


Written by: James Dawson.
Published by: Hot Key Books.
Format: Paperback.
Released: 4th September 2014.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "Former PSHCE teacher and acclaimed YA author James Dawson gives an uncensored look at what it's like to grow up as LGBT. Including testimonials from people across the gender and sexual spectrums, this frank, funny, fully inclusive book explores everything anyone who ever dared to wonder wants to know - from sex to politics, how to pull, stereotypes, how to come-out and more. Spike Gerrell's hilarious illustrations combined with funny and factual text make this a must-read."


Oh James! James, James, James, James, JAMES! You wonderful, wonderful man, you! 

I do not normally read non-fiction. People that know me know that I actively hate non-fiction. I'm not a big fan of biographies, autobiographies, fact books, any books to do with research or anything that that. Generally I find them boring and will only read them if it's something I am particularly interested in (I think to date I only own 3 autobiographies...). I'm more of a fiction kind of guy. I love being in made up worlds, made up situations, with made up people... Characters. And someone who's fiction I love very much is Mr. James Dawson himself. Author of the witchy tale Hollow Pike, sun, sea, sand and murder tome Cruel Summer, and school girl haunting Say Her Name, James has captivated a wide audience. And when I first heard about This Book Is Gay, I just knew I had to break my own reading limitations and read it because coming from James it was bound to be good.

And you know what? I was surprised just how much I enjoyed this book. I thought I might as James had said it was funny as well as informative and this was something I was a bit worried about. Was it simply going to be a big information dump? Fact after fact after fact, that although it was designed for the YA market it would still have the usual non-fiction feel, almost a clinical kind of cleanliness and way of delivering information. But that couldn't of been further from the truth. What is actually contained within the brightly coloured cover is a fun, sometimes gut-wrenchingly funny, well thought out and delivered book that doesn't feel like learning at all. It is informative, don't get me wrong. As a gay male myself I found myself relating to thinks in the book. I read bits and experiences similar to my own and also things that I didn't know, or haven't yet encountered. 

I loved the whole thing. From the section on stereotypes, to gay icons, it kept me glued to the page as much as any thriller ever has. It's so well executed that I cannot thank James enough for its existence and Hot Key Books enough for actually publishing it. The book itself feels so important. If this book had been around 10 years ago, heck, even 5 years ago, I feel like my own adolescence and transition into an adult would of been a million times easier. It's not a secret that I struggled with coming to terms with my own sexuality until as last as the end of 2013 but we never had anything remotely like this. We never had anything that showed it was okay to be gay and that it wasn't that different from being straight, things were just a little different. This book really opened my eyes and actually made me mourn for the years of my life I wasted worrying and hiding - it had almost the same affect on me that David Levithan's Two Boys Kissing did, only this one showed me things I had never imagined! I'd never thought about sterotypes and the like.

The book is also a great form of sex-ed for young gay people, both male and female. It isn't that explicit but it's the sort of information you are NEVER taught in school and I find this so valuable and important. I had a brief twitter convo with George or as you may know him GesterG91 on BookTube/YouTube and we both agreed that the book should become required reading in schools and I couldn't argue this point more if I tried. Whilst I do think the book is very good for LGBT people I also believe it would be a very beneficial read for many straight people too. Gay people are all to often brushed aside by straight people and it is something I see and experience every day and think the book would help give some people a little bit of understanding, a bit of an idea of what it might be like to be a bit different to the norm.

So I am rambling, I am aware. I just cannot express my love for this book enough. It's just... GAH! One of my favourite books I've read yet and the best piece of nonfiction I have ever encountered, that is for sure!

Please, please, please, give this book a go! I promise you won't be disappointed, it is James after all, the man is incredible! 

Thank you so much to Hot Key Books for sending me a copy.

Friday 2 January 2015

The Young Elites by Marie Lu [Review]

Written by: Marie Lu.
Published by: Putnam.
Format: Hardback.
Released: 7th October 2014.
Rating: 5/5.

Official synopsis: "Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina's black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family's good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever's survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars-they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites. Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it's Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they've never seen. Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn't belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her."


As a fan of Marie's previous work, the Legend trilogy (although I do still need to read the final book, Champion), I had an inkling that I was rather going to enjoy this book. And I wasn't wrong.

The Young Elites is, I will go as far to say, Marie's best work yet. It is, quite simply put, incredible. The pacing. The action. The darkness. The world. The characters. It is all balanced so, so well and I couldn't get enough - I just did not want the book to end!

It follows Adelina, a malfetto, marked by a blood fever that swept across the land claiming countless lives and leaving the survivors marked in some way. But as the years went on, it became apparent that those marked also had the chance to have unexplained powers. Control over fire, control over animals, control over the wind, super speed. Even, or so it has been rumoured, the ability to bring the dead back to life. Adeline discovers her power on the same night that her father dies and she is blamed. He's mistreated her her whole life, showing his love on his un-marked daughter, Violetta, always saying just how worthless Adelina is, but she isn't as worthless as he might think. She is an illusionist, able to conjure up images of terrible demons and more besides. Accused of murdering her father, Adelina waits for her execution and when the Lead Inquisitor, Teren, shows up she wonders why. Just at the last moment, as Teren is about light the pile of wood at Adelina's feet to begin her execution, she is saved and weaves an image to help her saviours. 

Rescued and carted off to a mystery room, Adelina wonders who has saved her and soon comes to learn that it is the Young Elites. A band of malfetto's who have joined together to help end the tyranny of the king and the persecution of all other malfetto's who are only tolerated in society, looked down upon. The Dagger Society trains Adelina to use her powers, to grow into them, but Adelina is hading darkness inside of her, a darkness that swells and grows as the book goes on and could spell disaster. As Adelina struggles with choices between right and wrong, choices that benefit only herself or those that would benefit countless others, things only get worse and build to a stunning conclusion.

What I really love about The Young Elites is that it isn't a story about heroism. Oh no. There are no heroes here. Both sides do terrible, depraved things to further their own means. This isn't really a story about right and wrong. It's about doing what you have to do to get what you want. It feels so refreshing to read - normally we are always on the side of the good guy, reading along as they battle forces of great evil and darkness. Whereas with this book, we're instead alongside Adelina who isn't really sure what side she is on, isn't really sure what she wants and cannot help but feed the darkness inside of her, poisoning her own mind.

I cannot get over just how awesome this book is. The characters really are a great bunch. From Adelina, to the dark, brooding Enzo. From Teren and his Inquisitors of the Inquisition Axis to Queen Guiletta and her dark, snake like charm, plotting against her husband, the King. I was so addicted to this book and in love with it - literally a perfect read! The only reason it isn't included in my end of year list for last year is because I had already completed and posted the list before I finished reading this book! Otherwise it would be there for sure! 

It even has LGBT characters and relationships in it with such a casual air to it that it's just normal. It isn't important to the characters that they might be gay or bi, or whatever, it's just how they are and it's fine, accepted. This was a breath of fresh air too as all to often the fact that a character is LGBT is the main struggle, whereas in this book it takes a back seat and isn't so much a plot point, more just a character trait and it is handled so well that I almost glanced over it every time it popped up and wouldn't of taken a big of notice had I not realised and said BUT THIS IS YA! LGBT IS GROUNDBREAKING STUFF, THIS IS GROUNDBREAKING STUFF... FANTASTIC! And with the way it's ended and the hints at the end, I'm pretty sure we are going to be seeing more of it!

And the writing! I knew Marie's prose were great but this one just knocks it all out of the park. The narrative is perfect, Adelina's voice is so convincing and real you cannot help but feel her fear along with her. It is a cracking read and damn well hard to put down. I cannot recommend it highly enough, and with it being the last book I finished in 2014, I cannot think of a better read to end the year on! I loved it so much and I cannot wait for the sequel, which we now know to be titled The Rose Society! It's out in October and I cannot freaking wait!!!!

Thursday 1 January 2015

GoodReads 2015 Reading Challenge

I have been a member of GoodReads for years now and I love it. It is a great way to keep a track of the books you read, the books you want to read and the books you haven't heard about yet but cannot wait for them to come out!

For the last couple of years now they have hosted reading challenges, where you set yourself a target for how many books you want to read in that year. Normally, I have been setting myself targets of 100, or at one point because I liked the way it looked, 111. And every year I have failed, and sometimes miserably. This year though I have decided to start lower and then I can always up my target should I reach the goal. At the moment I am going for 75 books - this last year has been a bit of a washout for me reading wise due to some MAJOR reading slumps lasting months at a time, but with the slew of amazing titles that 2015 promises I am hoping it is going to be a much, much better reading year for me. 

I am going to be including the widget on the right hand side, so you can, if you want to, keep track with how many books I have read and what books they are. I am also finally going to be keeping up the Books Read page that I originally created in 2013, updated for 2014 and just ignored completely. Ha. Hopefully I can keep it up for 2015.

You can add me on GoodReads here! Please do! I really want to add more people on there to keep track of what I am reading and also see what everyone is reading too!

So, how many books are you hoping to read?

Happy New Year

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say Happy New Year to everyone. 2014 has been a strange year for me, personally and in my blogging life and I am now so excited to see what 2015 has in store. I am hoping it is a better year, that it brings with it a lot of positive things, a lot of good changes and a lot of amazing books to read! I can't wait to share it all with you guys.

Be safe, and happy reading. :)