April 2019 ~ Divergent Series (by Veronica Roth)
I love dystopian novels, I really do. It takes a lot of creativity, originality and skill to be able to write a gripping dystopian story. And Divergent delivers… mostly.
The first book (Divergent) hooks you into the life of Beatrice Prior – aka Tris – right from the start. The discovery that she’s a Divergent changes everything for her and she’s faced with so many different challenges, most of which are life or death. Throughout the three books, every decision she makes really builds on her character and it keeps the reader rooting for her. Nearly every character in the story brings something new to the table and I didn’t find myself getting bored with any of them. That’s quite an accomplishment seeing as there are many different voices within the story.
I also have to point out that the relationship between Tris and Four is one of my favourites in any YA book I’ve read so far. It’s not cheesy to the point of disbelief. I hate that crap, honestly.
The world that Roth has created is thought-provoking, unique and makes for an interesting read. However, I do think having only five factions would make for a dysfunctional society. And the Dauntless may be brave, but why do they have to be reckless to the point of stupidity?
If you’ve seen the films but not read the books, I would definitely recommend giving them a go.
My Rating: * * * *
March 2019 ~ Whistle in the Dark (by Emma Healey)
When I picked up this book I was quite excited to get stuck in. I love a good psychological thriller, which is what I thought this would be considering the wording used in its advertising.
The story is about a depressed 15 year old girl, Lana, who goes missing for 4 days while at an art retreat with her mother, Jen. Lana insists she just got lost and has no other memory of the past 4 days, leaving her mother confused and anxious to solve the mystery. Intriguing concept, right?
But, unfortunately, the whole thing unfolded in the dullest way possible. After the first few chapters, I found myself still waiting to be gripped by the story, or feel some empathy for the characters. I’m sorry to say this (as I’m never quite this harsh with books), but I was utterly bored.
I can appreciate tackling teen depression can be a tricky issue for an author, and if done well, it can captivate the reader, especially with such a thrilling concept. However, I had to force myself to get to the end, skimming most of the chapters (some of which seemed to be thrown in just for the word count).
So, I don’t recommend this. I guess what they say is right: Don’t judge a book by its cover… The cover was quite good.
My Rating: * *
February 2019 ~ Pride and Prejudice (by Jane Austen)
I’m ashamed to admit it took me this long to read a Jane Austen book, seeing as I’ve been an avid reader since early childhood. But I wanted to get some classics into my reading list and I thought, what better way to start than with the original of one of my favourite movies. And I’m glad I picked this one.
At first, I thought the 19th century language would get tedious and tiresome to read, but it was, in fact, quite enchanting. The opening line itself is one of my favourites:
“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
The high society, expectations of marriage and romantic values, and the comedic dialogue between many of its amazing characters had me fully absorbed into Austen’s world. Her ability to portray a variety of different personalities and psychologies shows (in my opinion) exceptional intelligence.
Elizabeth Bennet is a witty, opinionated and sincere heroine who many women in this day and age can still relate to. She is the most modern and forward-thinking female in her family. Her relationship with Mr Darcy is one for the ages; it is genuine and conflicted. His inner battle of falling in love with a woman who is seen as “beneath” him (in terms of class), develops brilliantly throughout the book.
I love the fact that their romance wasn’t the stereotypical “love at first sight”, but instead how it matured over more than a year, as they overcame his pride and her prejudice.
For anyone seeking a book to delve into the classics, I would highly recommend Pride and Prejudice. It definitely had me thinking, I should have read this sooner!
My Rating: * * * * *
January 2019 ~ Post – Apocalyse Writers’ Phrase Book (by Jackson Dean Chase)
For any writer out there who is writing (or is planning to write) a post-apocalyptic story, then this book is quite a useful resource to have for specific words/terms/phrases that fit into the genre.
If you seek guidance into a post-apocalyptic world, then you will most likely find what you need in here. From blades and futuristic weapons, dystopian societies and radiation sickness, wildlife and monsters, to words of power (and more), I think it’s safe to say all the bases are covered. I’ve even found it useful for providing prompts when trying to come up with new stories.
This book can really help create the perfect sentences to enhance the reading and writing experience, so it’s definitely worth keeping around your writing space.
My Rating: * * * *
December 2018 ~ Stephen King On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
When I purchased this book I was looking for some guidance on writing from a hugely accomplished writer. However, when I found myself reading through the first part of the book, I was slightly confused as to what kind of book I had bought.
The first 118 pages are filled with memories of his earlier life; of which some parts are relevant to how he became the successful writer that he is and his inspiring work ethic (like when he kept all his rejection letters nailed to a wall), and some parts not so relevant (like when he wiped his bottom with poison ivy as a child).
I found the struggles he faced personally and as a writer very relatable and his successes to be motivational. His casual and humorous writing style made it quite an enjoyable read, but I have to say, I also felt like it lost focus at times and I was skimming more than reading to get to the interesting bits.
It was only when I got to the second part of the book, that I found what I was initially looking for when I purchased it. Stephen King’s ‘Toolbox’ is a very honest and educational piece of writing that (in my opinion) aspiring writers should take a look at if they have the chance. It’s filled with practical advice; taking writing back to basics, and reminding writers that fancy descriptive words don’t necessarily make the writing stronger (like when a simple ‘said’ instead of ‘said contemptuously’ will suffice).
Bearing in mind that I’ve not read any of Stephen King’s other works just yet (I will be adding some to my reading list), I did enjoy this book. It had parts I wasn’t really looking for but it all came together quite well to inspire, educate and guide writers.
My Rating: * * * *
November 2018 ~ The 100 Series – Book 1: The 100 // Book 2: Day 21 // Book 3: Homecoming // Book 4: Rebellion (by Kass Morgan)
Being a fan of The 100 television show, I’ve been wanting to read this book series (which the show is based off of) to see how the TV version differed from the original concept. While Morgan’s writing is effortless in the way it navigates between four different characters narrations, and seamlessly integrates flashbacks to give each of those four characters more backstory, the story itself can get quite frustrating after a while.
For someone who enjoys post-apocalyptic novels (which I assumed would be the main theme of these books), I was disappointed to find that the overbearing theme was teen romance. It felt like a couple of the love stories were too fast in getting to the ‘I love you’ stage after only a week of meeting one another, and they couldn’t imagine life without each other, and would annihilate the entire human race to save the person they loved. I get novels are not really meant to be 100% realistic, that’s why they’re so fun and a perfect way to escape daily routines and stresses, but in terms of human emotion, connection and relationships, it did feel unrealistic and slightly childish.
In terms of setting, I found the descriptions and world building a little lacking and vague. For example, we don’t get much detail about the spaceship they all lived on before heading back to Earth, such as why the colonies are separated in the way that they are, and how many people are actually living there. And then, similarly on Earth itself.
If you watch the TV show already, then I would say don’t bother reading the books, because the show exceeds the books in more ways than one, so you won’t really be missing out on anything. The show manages to focus on more compelling plots outside of just romance, and to be honest, I prefer the more resilient, independent women characters we see in the show.
My Rating: * * *
October 2018 ~ How To Write A Novel: 47 Rules for Writing a Stupendously Awesome Novel That You Will Love Forever (by Nathan Bransford)
If you’re looking for an honest and easy to follow book on the realities of writing a novel, from start to finish, then this is the one to read.
This book has a very conversational, blog like tone, almost as though you’re just having a friendly chat with Nathan Bransford. He pinpoints many self-doubting thoughts or wild expectations a writer can have, yet manages to put the reader at ease. For a first time writer, the task of writing a whole book can be daunting so his realistic, simple and humorous approach is quite reassuring.
Along with many of his rules, he gives real examples from existing characters and plots (some from his own work, the Jacob Wonderbar series). I found this level of detail to be particularly helpful in creating my own work.
To give you an idea of the types of rules in the book, I’ve listed a few of my favourites:
- Rule #1: BELIEVE!
- Rule #7: Don’t chase trends – I mean it: don’t do it
- Rule #13: Write a killer first page
- Rule #20: Embrace conflict
- Rule #30: It’s all about the climax
- Rule #38: Edit as you go
- Rule #44: Even when you’re finished, you’re not finished
The main message of this book is just to keep writing and to persevere through the challenges that come with it. I truly believe this book is motivational, inspirational and beneficial to new writers, so it’s definitely got my recommendation.
My Rating: * * * * *
October 2018 ~ Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (by Yuval Noah Harari)
To start off, here’s one of my favourite passages (of many) from this book:
“In the end he (Siddhartha Gautama) came to the realisation that suffering is not caused by ill fortune, by social injustice, or by divine whims. Rather, suffering is caused by the behaviour patterns of one’s own mind.
Gautama’s insight was that no matter what the mind experiences, it usually reacts with craving, and craving always involves dissatisfaction. When the mind experiences something distasteful it craves to be rid of the irritation. When the mind experiences something pleasant, it craves that the pleasure will remain and will intensify. Therefore, the mind is always dissatisfied and restless.”
I cannot praise this book enough. Genuinely, it is so rare to find a book that really enlightens you and opens your eyes to things you never really gave much thought to.
To be able to connect every major evolutionary point, historical event and other important developments the world has seen, as though you’re telling a perfectly flowing fictional story, is truly a brilliant talent. Surprisingly though, it’s not all about science, politics or the sort. As seen in the passage above, Harari even manages to encompass psychological and spiritual elements.
I recommend this book to everybody. Whatever your political views, religion, race, gender etc are, reading this will make you think from an entirely different perspective and question your own ideologies and beliefs.
My Rating: * * * * *
September 2018 ~ How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method (by Randy Ingermanson)
I bought this book about 2 years ago and I decided to have a read through it again over the past couple of weeks. This is the first book I bought in my endeavour to find out where I would even begin planning a novel.
Randy Ingermanson cleverly used well known fairytale characters to articulate the very popular Snowflake Method, in a clear and simple fashion. I have to say, it is a very enjoyable read, whilst also very helpful (for a seriously confused beginner, like me) in planning a novel, thanks to his 10-step guide.
The 10 steps are as follows:
- One-Sentence Summary
- One-Paragraph Summary
- Character Sheets
- Short Synopsis
- Character Synopses
- Long Synopsis
- Character Charts
- Scene List
- Scene Details
- Write Your Novel
Before I discovered this book, I was constantly searching online for the best ways to get started on writing a novel. I read about writers who swear by the Snowflake Method, and those who don’t do any planning at all and just freestyle it, and others who do a little bit of both. I tried it all and, honestly, I can’t say there is one perfect way to plan your story. It’s different for everyone.
Personally, I found that a couple of the steps are not necessary, or could be combined with another to save time and confusion that could arise from ping ponging from character to plot, character to plot, and character to plot again.
Don’t get me wrong though. This book definitely helped me tidy up the crazy jumble of ideas that were swirling around in my brain, and gave me a very useful list on how I can categorize and work on the different elements in my plan.
My Rating: * * * *